New York: Venus Williams clocked the fastest women’s serve of the US Open on Tuesday before predicting a return to the top 10 and admitting it took her nearly a year to accept she had a serious medical condition.
Williams landed a first serve of 199.5km/h during her 6-3 6-1 demolition of Bethanie Mattek-Sands to set up a re-match with the woman who beat her in the third round of the Olympics, Germany’s sixth seed Angelique Kerber.
The former world number one has fallen to 46th on the rankings but claimed she had the weaponry to return to the elite.
“I’m looking forward to the top 10, all that great stuff,” the 32-year-old Williams said. “I feel like I have it in me.”
Williams revealed at the US Open last year she had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Sjogen’s Syndrome after withdrawing from her second-round match against Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
She admitted on Tuesday she was in denial until recently about the seriousness of the disease.
“Honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was going through,” she said. “I feel like it’s been just this summer I’ve come to acceptance. Especially when you’re an athlete you see yourself as this healthy person and nothing can defeat you.
“So it takes a while before you can see yourself with flaws and chinks in the armour. Now that I have come to accept it, it helps me a lot in how I need to prepare for my matches.
“It’s not as intimidating. I definitely was intimidated in a lot of matches this year, coming back and learning to play with this, so I’ve come a long way mentally, emotionally, physically as well.”
Williams admitted she naively expected the condition to disappear overnight.
“It’s something where you’re thinking maybe tomorrow you’ll wake up and it’s gone,” she said. “You start having the same symptoms over and over and over again.
“After a while you start to realise, ‘OK, I’m not making this up.’ It’s real. It becomes acceptance.”
Williams agreed she had come full circle by storming into the second round again at Flushing Meadows. She lost to Kerber in two tie-break sets at the London Games.
“To be back out here, winning matches, moving forward and getting better, that’s good for me,” she said.
“Wimbledon was actually where I started playing well again. For me it’s about living life with no regrets. If I have any small chance to hit the ball, I’m going to go for it.”
The seven-times major champion produced a vintage serving display against Mattek-Sands and said the importance placed on her delivery occasionally came at the detriment of the rest of her game.
Williams won 83 per cent of the points on her first serve and clubbed 22 winners in a powerhouse performance.
“My serve is huge — it’s such a huge part of my game,” she said. “When there’s a big point, I’m thinking my serve is going to help me every time. I get so involved in my serve I forget to play the rest of the point.
“When your serve is on, the rest of your game is beautiful.”