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Dress to impress: Venus' style revival

Story highlights

  • Venus Williams recently relaunched her clothing label EleVen in New York
  • The seven-time grand slam champion was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome last year
  • The former world No. 1 won the women's Olympic doubles title alongside sister Serena
  • Williams took time out of her playing career to obtain a fashion degree

Confidence -- on the court and off it, Venus Williams is finding her mojo again.

A year ago the tennis star was diagnosed with a debilitating auto-immune disease during the U.S. Open, but next week she will step back on the courts of her home grand slam tournament boosted by her recent results and the relaunch of her fashion label.

Williams defended her women's doubles gold medal at the recent Olympic Games alongside younger sister Serena, who has roared back from her own health problems to win both the Wimbledon and London 2012 singles titles.

"The Olympics really built my confidence," the 32-year-old Venus told CNN. "I wasn't able to play a lot of matches beforehand -- just three matches in about two months, which is not a lot.

"So going to the Olympics I didn't have a lot of matches, but I made the best of it and I played I think some of my best tennis of the year."

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The former world No. 1's passion, fashion, is also on the upswing following the recent relaunch of her label EleVen at an event in New York -- which also hosts the U.S. Open.

"EleVen is about being better than a 10," said the current world No. 47. "So it's about being a personal best, it's about not accepting any limits, that anyone puts on you or that you can even put on yourself, because sometimes we do.

"It's about expressing yourself for who you are. So EleVen means a lot of things but it just means bringing out the best in you.

"I feel that when I wear EleVen, I feel my best. So I want people to feel their best when they wear EleVen, confident and good about themselves."

Throughout her career, the seven-time grand slam champion has been as well known for her striking outfits as she has her powerful tennis strokes.

Some of them pushed the boundaries of sporting design, and Williams said she is reining in her more experimental urges.

"Some of my favorite things were the goddess dress that I wore at Wimbledon, I think it was 2007," she said. "And one of the craziest ones was the can-can dress.

"That was my idea of having lace on skin. For me it was fun, and it was experimental because at that time it was just me wearing it. But at that time I was like, 'What can I do that can be worn on the court? Can you wear lace? Yes. Can you wear fringe?'

"Because I did this fun dress after Tina Turner, and it was so fun, but at this point the experiments are over and it's about bringing classic designs."

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Williams' obsession with design is such that she took time away from playing tennis to gain a fashion degree.

"To get my degree was important to me, mostly because of how I grew up -- my parents always chose education -- so for me it felt like an achievement to be able to do that," she said.

"But also I love fashion, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do, and I wanted to bring credibility to it, and I have to say the education helps a ton, so it's served me very well."

Williams said she is excited about all the elements of her life coming together again.

"I'm very excited about my game, I'm excited about tennis, I'm excited about wearing all the new EleVen clothes," she said.

"There are so many wonderful things coming up so I think between great tennis and great fashions on the court, it's going to be an amazing U.S. Open for me."

Williams is, however, still coming to terms with her battle against Sjogren's Syndrome -- which can cause extreme fatigue among its symptoms.

"I've come a long way, and I've gone through a lot of ups and downs for sure," she said.

"When you have an auto-immune disease, you can't expect everything to be the way it was before. You have to take the set of circumstances you have, and work with those.

"I'm working on it every day, but I know that I can live this dream and I think it gives a lot of other people hope, because it's not easy, but you know I'm working on it."

The story of the Williams sisters' rise to prominence, their dominance of the women's game and the struggles they have both experienced in recent years -- with Serena surviving potentially life-threatening blood clots -- has captivated tennis fans.

They have won a combined total of 33 singles and doubles grand slam titles, so what lies ahead as they approach the twilight of their tennis careers?

"There's a lot more clothes to design," Venus said. "Serena and I both want to play the Rio 2016 Olympics, we think that'd be a great place to shine for us and for the U.S. and everything.

"So we're not done yet, we still have great tennis in us, and it's amazing to do this every day."

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