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Venus pulls out of Auckland with illness

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Originally published on: 20/12/11 09:19

Venus Williams is a doubt for the Australian Open after the 31 year old pulled out of the ASB Classic in Auckland due to ongoing health issues.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion has been receiving treatment for the incurable Sjogren’s syndrome – an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack its moisture producing glands – and after playing a few recent exhibition matches Williams told her agent she is not fit to play in Auckland.

“We are disappointed to have lost a player of her calibre,” said tournament director Richard Palmer. “While withdrawals of this nature are part and parcel of sport, we sincerely feel for the fans who will also be disappointed by the news of Venus’ withdrawal.”

The American played just four events in 2011 – including three of the Grand Slams – but managed just eight victories and ultimately pulled out of the US Open ahead of her second round match as a result of her Sjogren’s syndrome.

After the diagnosis in September, she said: Sjogren’s is something you live with your whole life. The good news is now I know what’s happening after spending years not knowing. I feel like I can get better and move on.”

Currently ranked at No.103 in the world, Williams had originally been handed a wildcard into the New Zealand event, which still hosts a quality field despite her absence.

“Next month’s ASB Classic field is one of the strongest in the tournament’s history with four players in the top 20, the eight seeds in the top 30 and all 24 direct entries in the top 70 in the world,” added Palmer.

Won by 32-year-old Hungarian Greta Arn last year, this year’s event will be headlined by top seed Sabine Lisicki, with former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta also present.

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