Dubai: The Williams household has changed a lot in recent years, with much of it due to a rare illness affecting former world number one Venus.
In 2011, the American was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, forcing her to adopt a vegan and raw foods diet to help decrease inflammation in her body and reduce the energy-sapping symptoms of the disease. She also took a break from tennis.
However, after many months, Venus made a comeback to the WTA Tour in 2012 and since then has done well to readjust to the rigours of being a professional sportswoman. The family has sometimes struggled to cope with what Venus was going through and, on Thursday, younger sister Serena played a perfect compliment to her sibling.
After cruising into her third semi-finals in Dubai, Serena took time in answering questions on how Venus’ illness encouraged them to make changes. “She [Venus] has changed her lifestyle. She used to eat different things and, believe it or not, she’s thinner. I never ate as bad as her. I guess that’s my luck. But she changed her diet. She had to because of her illness. She became — she calls herself a cheagan — because she used to eat a lot of beef. I never ate beef. So every blue moon I will see her eating a steak, but only literally twice a year, maybe once a year,” Serena said.
“We live together. My mom started and then I started. I felt like I can’t bring bad things in the house. And I love to cook, so I learnt how to cook — well, raw, and I learnt how to cook vegan and stuff like that. So it was a great experience for us all.
“It’s a great way to live. It’s so healthy. Forget tennis and everything. It’s just about living a healthy lifestyle and being the best person you can on the inside and healing your body from the inside out.”
Serena paid her sister the ultimate tribute for being so brave in tackling the illness. “It’s really great. She’s such an inspiration. She’s the ultimate inspiration. I think her story is the greatest, to go through what she’s going through,” she said.
“I probably would have hung up my racquets and maybe played some doubles. She has so much courage to show up week in and week out and play. That’s what I call courage.
“Her spirit has been just amazing because I know what she goes through more than anyone else here, and sometimes she’s doing great and sometimes it’s different and it’s difficult. She might lose matches that she would normally win 10 times out of 10, but to accept that and keep going is really amazing. ”