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Happy Venus joins Serena in ‘Body Issue’ celebration shoot, calls for ‘a re-shoot!’

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Williams+Hirakawa for ESPN the magazine

Venus Williams has been through a tremendous amount these last few years. She might not be the dominating Grand Slam champion she once was, but the 34-year-old is still keeping herself in very competitive shape.

The five-time Wimbledon champion has battled with Sjogren's syndrome in recent years - an incurable condition that brings on muscle soreness.

Indeed, Williams says that the condition makes her "so tired it hurts", even when she is not competing in a Grand Slam at the highest level.

Williams will be featured in the sixth annual ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, which will be released on July 11, and it's a celebration of professional athletes' physiques.

She is now so confident about her physique that she quipped at the All England Club that she would like to pose for the naked snaps again.

"I think I’m in better shape now than when we did the pictures," Williams told the Daily Mail. "Hopefully we can do a re-shoot!

"I think I did it because Serena did it. She was a big influence on me."

In addition to the inspirational nude photos of both Williams and men's star Tomas Berdych from the tennis world, the magazine also features heavily further details of Venus's incredible battle with the auto-immune disorder that forced her to take a six-month hiatus from the sport in 2011-12.

"At my worst point, I wasn't able to play tennis at all," Williams told ESPN.

"Just the whole quality of my life was compromised. You are so tired it hurts. You have to accept that you're never going to be 100 per cent."

"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.

"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."

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Venus's turn on the pages comes five years after her sister, Serena, graced the magazine's cover, and it's a tremendous tribute to the way that she has embraced her physical situation following a struggle to regain fitness and confidence.

Many believed that Williams's illness would, in all likelihood, prompt her retirement, but the former world number one is as determined as ever to compete on the biggest stages in world tennis.

In winning five Wimbledon singles titles, Venus is only one of four women to accomplish such a feat and stands tall as one of the legends of the women's game. The fact that she is now so comfortable with her life on and off the court is a powerful statement.

Celebrating athletes' physiques is a positive thing at a time when female sports stars, in particular, can find it difficult to deal with the public scrutiny.

The fact that both Serena and Venus have now appeared in the magazine's special issues is not something to be underestimated in terms of how they are perceived by fans and those within the game.

As iconic sports people in their era, the pair have done a great deal in setting themselves up as role-models, while each has endured tough spells with illnesses.

Speaking of her mysterious illness that plagued her back in 2011, Serena told the BBC: "I was on my death bed at one point — quite literally."

"To this day, I don’t really know the full details of what happened. I was walking and just felt something. I kept walking and it was definitely glass there. There was a massive puddle of blood. I ended up fainting and needed stitches in both feet.

"If it had been left two days later it could have been career-ending — or even worse. They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that.

"It has given me a whole new perspective on life and my career — and not taking anything for granted. I’m just taking one day at a time. I’m not preparing for today or for Wimbledon. I’m preparing for the rest of my career."

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Serena Williams (ESPN The Magazine)

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