New York: Maria Sharapova was hoping on Thursday that the Venus Williams rags-to-riches story wasn't at an end despite the 31-year-old American being forced out of the US Open with a debilitating illness.
Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, and a back-to-back US Open winner in 2000 and 2001, has been diagnosed with the auto-immune disease, Sjogren's Syndrome which affects energy levels and causes fatigue and joint pain.
The illness forced Williams, who has played just four tournaments in 2011, to withdraw from her scheduled second round match with Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday.
"I don't think either one of us really knows how serious it is. Hopefully it is not. I hope that it's not the end of her career," said Sharapova.
"I still feel like, although she's a bit older, she's still one of the fittest players on tour and one of the most dangerous when she's playing well."
Williams's fellow American -- and 2003 US Open men's champion -- Andy Roddick said there would have had to have been a serious reason for Williams to withdraw.
"I was surprised. We saw her the other night. She looked pretty good. I know she's been battling some physical stuff this year, which is not easy," said Roddick.
"I'm very concerned, because if Venus isn't playing at the US Open, it's got to be something. She didn't withdraw because she's sneezing too much.
"If you think about their story (Serena and Venus Williams), I think we take it for granted. A lot of times they've drawn a lot of criticism. But, trust me, five years, when they're gone, everyone is going to miss them.
"Everyone is going to realize they're going to be living legends for the rest of their lives. Two girls from Compton dominating tennis, that's not an everyday story."
Meanwhile, Sharapova avoided Wednesday's cull of seeds with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over pint-sized Belarusian Anastasiya Yakimova in a second round match which finished just past midnight.
Russian third seed Sharapova, the 2006 champion, compensated for her 23 unforced errors with 28 winners as she brushed aside her 84th-ranked opponent to set up a clash with Italian Flavia Pennetta for a last 16 place.
Sharapova's win came on the day when her half of the draw, which had already lost Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, was stripped of French eighth seed Marion Bartoli, Polish 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Slovakian 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova.
Sharapova needed just 70 minutes to defeat Yakimova who until this year had never won a match at the US Open.
Her paltry return of just two winners illustrated the mismatch on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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