Health problems have turned Venus Williams into a shell of the player she once was during the prime of her career. A second round loss at the 2012 U.S. Open only underscored that her skills have eroded.
The time has arrived for Williams to seriously consider hanging up her racket for good as a singles tennis player. Her comeback efforts after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome been admirable, but it is obvious that battling the autoimmune disease has taken a toll on Williams.
Her second round loss to sixth seeded Angelique Kerber underscored some of the problems Williams has dealt with throughout 2012. Kerber claimed a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 victory by surviving repeated volleys from Williams with strong baseline play. There is no questioning that Williams fought hard from start to finish, but she also made a flurry of mistakes. She had 60 unforced errors in the match and her energy drained over the course of the 2 hour and 45 minute match.
Williams dropped out prior to her second round match in the 2011 U.S. Open after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome. The disease, which is similar in some respects to Lupus, causes lingering joint pain and constant fatigue. Rather than step away from the game permanently, Williams battled to comeback and show she could still play.
She has done well in doubles play with her sister Serena. They teamed to win the doubles crown at Wimbledon and followed up with an Olympic gold medal in women's doubles. Singles play has been an entirely different story.
Williams endured uncharacteristic early exits at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She reached the second round at Roland Garros before heading home in defeat. At Wimbledon, Williams fell in the first round. This was startling to see from a player who won five Wimbledon singles titles earlier in her career.
She avoided another first round exit at the U.S. Open by dispatching Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Tuesday. Williams bounced back from dropping the first two games of the match and notched a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Mattek-Sands.
Against Kerber, however, the toll of battling Sjogren's Syndrome became apparent as Williams proved unable to get just a few more shots to go her way in a tight final set.
Williams should take pride in coming back to pro tennis in 2012 - even on a limited tournament schedule. She has played in just seven tournaments so far, but simply coming back is a huge victory for a player who is looking to finish her career on her own terms.
The best way to continue her comeback might be to step away from singles tennis and just focus on being a doubles partner with Serena. They are still one of the most formidable doubles teams in the world, with three Olympic gold medals and 13 grand slam victories coming out of that partnership. Focusing on doubles and letting go of her attempted resurrection of her singles career would be the smart thing to do.
It would offer Williams the best chance to finish out her career on her terms.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and Coon himself enjoys playing at a recreational level.