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Venus Williams Retains Olympic Chance After French Open Loss

The Olympic quest continues for Venus Williams after a historic loss at the French Open.

The American was ousted in the second round in Paris yesterday, a day after Serena Williams lost her opening match. It added up to the worst performance for the sisters in a major tennis tournament.

Still, Venus Williams stayed on course for what she said was her primary goal -- a berth in the London Games this July.

“This tournament for me was all about getting to the Olympics,” she said after a 6-2, 6-3 loss to third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. “If that happens for me, I think the chances are good, then I come out a victor.”

Williams is ranked 53rd, and her first-round win in Paris will push her to around No. 48, according to the women’s WTA tour. The Olympic tennis tournament will be at the All England Club, where Venus has won five Wimbledon singles titles and four doubles crowns with Serena. The London Games start July 27.

Britain’s Andy Murray, seeded fourth, plays Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen today at Roland Garros. Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal of Spain faces Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, and defending women’s champion Li Na of China meets Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France. Women’s second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia plays Ayumi Morita of Japan.

Williams was playing in her first major since she was diagnosed last year with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease that left her barely able to lift her arms.

Match Statistics

She had 33 unforced errors and 17 winners, compared with six errors and 14 winners by Radwanksa. Williams signed autographs, and then waved to the crowd and smiled as she left the court.

Life has changed since the 31-year-old was diagnosed last year with Sjogren’s. The condition forced Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, to withdraw from the U.S. Open and rethink her priorities. After New York, she dropped out of the top 100 and didn’t play again until March.

The top four American women will make the cut for the London Games, provided they’re ranked inside the top 60 on June 11, the day after the French Open, according to the WTA. Williams will remain the third-highest American woman, provided U.S. player Varvara Lepchenko, who is ranked 61st in the world, doesn’t make the quarterfinals in Paris. Lepchenko has never moved past the second round of a major.

Wimbledon Advantage

Sjogren’s syndrome, which is mainly found in women, can cause extreme fatigue and joint pain and affect internal organs, according to Arthritis Research U.K. Although not life threatening, it can lead to inflammation in the muscles and lungs, make patients feel lethargic and cause dryness in the mouth and eyes.

Williams will have a shot at success on the fast grass courts of Wimbledon, according to 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert.

“If Venus is going to do well at any Grand Slam, it’s going to be Wimbledon, where she moves very nicely on the grass,” Evert said on an ESPN conference call last week. “She’s very comfortable, she’s won there so many times, and the points are shorter.”

Williams said yesterday she’ll be back next year in Paris.

“With my ranking now, I’d definitely get in next year,” she said. “This is only the beginning for me.”

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