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Venus Williams pulls out of U.S. Open due to autoimmune disease

By Chris Chase
Minutes before she was due to play her second-round match at the U.S. Open, Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament due to an autoimmune disease with which she was recently diagnosed.

"I'm really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year's U.S. Open," Williams said in a statement. "I have recently been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain."

The website for the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation says as many as 4 million Americans live with the disease. Over 90 percent are women. The disease attacks the body's moisture glands with white blood cells and causes various symptoms ranging from dry mouth to debilitating fatigure.

This recent diagnosis is the latest in a long line of health problems for the 31-year-old tennis star. She's only played four tournaments in 2011 due to an abdominal injury suffered at the Australian Open and a viral illness that prevented her from playing any warm-up tournament prior to the U.S. Open.

Venus was set to play Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki in the second round. Given her lack of court time and the power of the big-hitting German, the elder Williams would have been a decided underdog in the match. She looked good in her opening match two days ago and it's not like the seven-time Grand Slam champion isn't familiar with making surprise runs deep into majors.

Last year, Venus was a few points away from playing in the final at the Open but couldn't hold off eventual champion Kim Clijsters. In both 2005 and 2007 she emerged from prolonged slumps to win a title at Wimbledon.

No timetable was given for Venus' return to tennis.

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