Tennis ace Venus Williams has been diagnosed with a little-known chronic autoimmune disease.
The sports star was forced to pull out of the U.S. Open on Wednesday afternoon (31Aug11), just before she was due on court for her second round match against German Sabine Lisicki in New York.
She has now revealed she's suffering from Sjogren's syndrome, which occurs when white blood cells attack the body's moisture-producing glands.
Doctors only managed to identify the ailment in August (11) after Williams experienced years of health issues, which were initially diagnosed as exercise-induced asthma.
Williams admits the severe fatigue that comes with the syndrome has played havoc on her career and her emotions.
In a U.S. TV interview on Thursday (01Sep11), she says, "Looking back, it's affected my career in a huge way. I've been playing a lot of matches with half a deck. It's mentally destructive going into matches and wondering which balls can I run for and am I going to be able to compete...
"The fatigue is hard to explain unless you have it. You almost get used to it. You tell yourself to shake it off. Just keep going. Over time, you do start to wonder what's happening and if you're going crazy."
But she's vowed to fight back and is aiming to be back in action sooner rather than later: "I feel really positive about getting back on the court and at least being able to feel normal. I feel like now I can get better."