Venus Williams: Can She Reach the WTA Top 10 in 2012?

Van SiasContributor IIIDecember 6, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 29:  Venus Williams of the United States returns the ball against Vesna Dolonts of Russia during Day One of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Venus Williams' comeback has started in earnest with a couple of exhibitions played recently alongside younger sister Serena, who knows a thing or two about returning to form.

But is Venus poised to emulate Serena and become a Grand Slam contender once again?

The older Williams sister was diagnosed this year with Sjögren's Syndrome, a condition that attacks the autoimmune system. She had to withdraw from the final Major of the season, the U.S. Open, before her second-round match. Up to that point, it had already been a season interrupted by injury and ailment as Williams only played three other tournaments in 2011.

But now, after diagnosis and plans to change her diet to help combat Sjögren's, Williams has returned to the court.

First, she played an exhibition match in Colombia against Serena, which was actually the first match for both players since the U.S. Open. Over the weekend, the sisters traveled to Milan and faced Italian top-20 stars Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta, both of whom ended up defeating Venus in the exhibition.

Still, though she fell to both of them, she has to be encouraged by the fact that she competed solidly against two players who are currently in solid form. She and Serena then went on to defeat the pair in doubles.

At this point in her comeback, wins of any sort can have a significant impact on Williams' mindset. But her future will most likely depend on where she stands physically. She's one of the most powerful and athletically gifted female players in the history of the game.

As seen by her brief appearances on court in 2011, that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.

Plus, she has to be encouraged by the state of the women's game, where Grand Slam titles appear to be up for grabs. Having won seven of those in singles, Williams obviously knows what it takes to claim the biggest prizes.

Williams has made comebacks in her career before, but this will be her biggest challenge. Provided she stays healthy, a return to the top 10 can be expected.