Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Venus Williams: The tennis star with 'nothing to lose'

updated 3:12 PM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Venus Williams is hoping for success at the Miami Open.
Venus Williams is hoping for success at the Miami Open.
  • Venus Williams back in action at Miami Open this week
  • The 33-year-old feeling good despite battle with Sjogren's syndrome
  • Ranked 31 in the world and has won 45 WTA titles
  • Aiming to play at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- All athletes have ups and downs in their career, but few have touched the troughs that Venus Williams has experienced.

Having topped the tennis rankings, winning Wimbledon five times and her home U.S. Open twice, she has had to rebuild her career after succumbing to injuries and a debilitating autoimmune disease.

But those rocky moments are providing a powerful motivation for the 33-year-old.

"I have to say I feel more confident on the court than I have in my life," Williams told CNN's Open Court ahead of the Miami Open which starts Wednesday.

Serena Williams' best move?
Serena: Venus was a great role model
Serena Williams: 'I'm in awe' of Venus
Tennis star Venus Williams has relaunched her clothing label EleVen ahead of the U.S. Open. The 32-year-old took time out of her playing career to graduate from fashion school.
Tennis star Venus Williams has relaunched her clothing label EleVen ahead of the U.S. Open. The 32-year-old took time out of her playing career to graduate from fashion school.
'Better than 10'
Venus Williams\' fashion highs and lows Venus Williams' fashion highs and lows

"I think it's because I have really been to the bottom, so once you get that far down and you get back up, you realize you really have nothing to lose. "

Not since 2008, when she won her seventh grand slam on the grass courts of Wimbledon, has Williams tasted success at the sport's biggest events.

She has struggled since being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome -- an autoimmune disorder which causes joint pain and can deplete energy levels -- which she revealed publicly when pulling out during the 2011 U.S. Open.

By the end of that year she had plummeted outside the top 100 in the world rankings and faded into the background as her sister Serena -- who had to recover from potentially fatal blood clots on the lungs -- strengthened her reputation as the leading force in women's tennis.

While Serena has now won 17 grand slam titles, Venus has fought a very difficult battle -- coming to terms with her new condition, while trying to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

Her hard work was last month rewarded in Dubai, where she collected the 45th WTA title of her career and helped to quash doubts over her ability to compete against the very best.

A new vegan diet and an inexhaustible determination to overcome the syndrome has breathed new life into her tennis.

Such is Williams' confidence that she has already set her sights on competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Now ranked 31st, she has a special relationship with the Summer Games, having won four gold medals including the singles title in 2000.

The other three came after teaming up with her sister at Sydney, Beijing and most recently, London two years ago.

And while the calling of the Copacabana may be some way down the line, Williams is adamant she'll be ready for Brazil.

"The Olympics have been the most special moment for me and Serena in our lives," she said.

"Playing doubles as well has been amazing. I get to play with my sister and we get along and support each other.

"So the Olympics is definitely on our radar. It's only a couple of years away -- we think we can get there."

Read: Venus ends title drought

Read: Venus' style revival

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
updated 7:01 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
Rafael Nadal is still the "King of Clay" -- but his crown has slipped a bit, says CNN's Will Edmonds.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
updated 7:59 PM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
British tennis player Elena Baltacha won 11 ITF Pro Circuit titles during her 16-year playing career.
The Ukrainian-born, British tennis star loses fight against liver cancer, just a few weeks after revealing that she was battling the disease.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis."
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
At the 2009 Australian Open, French men's tennis was the talk of the town.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 14: Rafael Nadal of Spain sails a boat during day two of the ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 14, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal may be most at home on a clay tennis court, but he has always found comfort on the sea.