She is a former world No. 1. Has won seven Grand Slam singles titles. Owns four Olympic gold medals. Became the first African-American woman since Althea Gibson to win Wimbledon back-to-back. Venus Williams was once at the pinnacle of women's tennis. But are her days of winning Grand Slam singles titles over?
Twelve years ago, Venus first clenched the spot of world No. 1, becoming the first African-American woman to do so in the Open Era. To date she has held that position on three separate occasions.
At the height of her powers, Williams dominated women's tennis. Few could match her searing serves, powerful forehands, speed, agility, and sheer talent. Her intimidating presence often had players defeated before they even stepped foot on court.
But that success was tempered by the rise of another seemingly indomitable force—one created from the same blueprint as she—sister Serena.
The two sisters have faced each other in a total of eight Grand Slam finals with a head-to-head record of 6-2 in Serena's favor.
Now 33-years-old, wins don't come nearly as easily for Venus—they haven't for quite some time. Her last Grand Slam singles title was Wimbledon in 2008. It's fair to ask: has Venus's time as a real Grand Slam contender passed?
For the last few years, the tennis legend's game has been on the decline. Wins are no longer routine and losses come at the hands of lower ranked opponents. Williams' match play is streaked with glimpses of her past glory, but often littered with errors.
Aside from age, which diminishes the abilities of every athlete, an explanation for the decline of one of tennis' best-ever female grass court players finally came in 2011. It was then that Williams announced that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, which forced her to withdraw from the U.S. Open that year.
Sjogren's is a chronic autoimmune disease that has potentially debilitating effects. According to the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, symptoms of the disease can range from dry eyes and mouth to fatigue and joint pain as white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands.
In an issued statement regarding her illness, Williams said, "I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."
Venus eventually returned, however she continued to suffer losses as she learned to manage her illness. During a July 2013 interview with Katic Couric, Williams said, "When you're so tired, the quality of your life goes down. I'm getting better all the time." She also took the opportunity to dispel retirement rumors.
But if there's one thing to remember about a Williams sister, it's this: they don't quit easily. In fact, they never quit.
In February 2014, Venus Williams once again hoisted a championship trophy when she won the Dubai Championships, defeating France's Alize Cornet in straight sets and securing her 45th WTA title.
Although her wins are not as frequent, and questions still loom regarding her ability to win another Grand Slam title—which has thus far remained elusive—Venus Williams is looking forward to her future and even has her sights set on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Kevin Don Porter is a CBS local contributor and the author of the mysteries MISSING and OVER THE EDGE—both available on Amazon.com. Visit his website at www.kevindonporter.com. Friend him on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow him on Twitter: @kevindonporter.