Venus Williams Poses Nude for the ESPN Magazine Body Issue

The tennis star talks about staying in shape while battling autoimmune disorder.

Posted: 06/24/2014 09:43 AM EDT
Venus Williams, ESPN magazine

(Photo: ESPN Magazine "The Body Issue", July 2014)

Venus Williams is showing off her hard-earned body in ESPN magazine's annual Body issue. The 34-year-old tennis star poses nude in a beach-y background and credits her sister for getting her to say yes to the photo shoot because Serena had done so in the past. Except that she felt a bit of stage fright when the moment arrived.

"It didn't dawn on me until right when I walked on set that I would have to be without clothes. If I would have thought about it before, there may have been a little less of a chance," she told ESPN about what it was like to pose for the issue.

Williams talked about the revealing shoot (she cracked jokes to ease the tension of being butt naked in front of the camera) and how her body demands constant attention.

"I wish I could retain muscle easier. If I don't go to the gym for a week, I just get thinner and thinner. My body just doesn't want it. I'm full of oil, I guess," she said.

And since her 2011 diagnosis with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva and causes fatigue, Williams has to juggle wanting to go hard-core at the gym with her body's new limitations.

"In the past, I would train until I died. Now, because of Sjogren's syndrome, I have to be careful. If I train too hard, then I won't be able to do anything the next day," she said. "There would be times when I'd park my car at home and I fell asleep behind the wheel because I was so tired! It's a balance between pushing myself as much as I can and being reasonable about what I can achieve and what my body will tolerate."

"You are so tired it hurts," she continued. "At my worst point, I wasn't able to play tennis at all. Just the whole quality of my life was compromised
and uncomfortable. It's very difficult to understand unless you've gone through it. Especially as a professional athlete, there's never any acceptable excuse. You push and you push and you'll die on the court if you have to, but you get it done. The whole experience is just foreign as an athlete. You have to accept that you're never going to be 100 percent. So, how do you get past those roadblocks?"

To read the full interview and to see Williams in all her glory, grab a copy of ESPN magazine's Body issue when it hits newsstands July 11.


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