Venus Williams earns 90th Wimbledon win, advances to second round

“I like to think I handle my challenges well,” said the veteran player who has won most of her Grand Slams at the tournament

On Tuesday, Venus Williams celebrated her first Wimbledon match win since 2018 and her 90th career victory at the tournament, beating Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

Williams also made her 90th Grand Slam tennis match appearance, a record for both male and female players.

Williams, 41, a former No. 1-ranked player, came to Wimbledon ranked 111th. As reported by The Associated Press, she has lost in the first or second round at the past eight majors.

“You can’t win them all. Life is about how you handle challenges. Each point is a challenge on the court. No one gives you anything,” said Williams. “I like to think I handle my challenges well.”

Williams was diagnosed a decade ago with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, dry eye and dry mouth. 

“Unfortunately, that’s typical of people with autoimmune disease,” Williams said in a 2019 interview with Prevention. “They’re misdiagnosed or too sick to function. I literally had professional tennis taken away from me before I got the right diagnosis.”

There is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome.

“So you can imagine, it has definitely affected my game,” she told the outlet. 

“Typical symptoms are fatigue and dry mouth or eyes, although those with Sjogren’s may experience muscle aches, joint pain, and inflammation of major organs,” said Paula Marchetta, MD, of the American College of Rheumatology. “Often symptoms such as fatigue or muscle aches start to affect daily life, and that’s when a patient seeks help.”

The disease forced Williams to pull out of the 2011 U.S. Open and focus on her health. The break from the sport led to her being booted out of the rankings of the top 100 tennis players for the first time since 1996. 

Williams has won five Wimbledon titles after making her debut in 1997. She won the tournament for the first time in 2000 with her most recent win in 2008. Her sister Serena Williams is a seven-time Wimbledon champ.

One of Venus’ biggest fans is No. 21 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

As reported by The AP, when Jabeur spoke to reporters after winning her first-round match, Williams and Buzarnescu were beginning their last set. After winning the match, Williams will meet Jabeur, a 6-2, 6-1 winner against Rebecca Peterson.

Day Two: The Championships - Wimbledon 2021
Venus Williams plays a forehand in her first-round Wimbledon match against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania on June 29, 2021. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“I’m praying for her to win right now. It’s such an honor, privilege, everything, to play Venus,” Jabeur said. “She’s a legend and such an inspiration for me. I’ve watched her so many times. I love the way she fights. Honestly, it would be my dream to play her.”

Jabeur said Williams “was kind enough to practice with me,” describing her as “Such a nice person. … Very happy and supportive,” and adding “I appreciate her a lot.”

During post-game interviews, Williams called Jabeur “one of my favorite people on tour.”

“Honestly, she’s just breaking down barriers,” Williams said. “The first woman from her country to do anything that she’s doing… She’s inspiring so many people, including me.”

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