Venus Williams recalls 'nightmare' match from 2019 season: 'I don't know why I played' (Exclusive)

Venus Williams may be 25 years into her illustrious tennis career, but she's still learning new lessons that inform her career choices and match play as she continues to work on improving her game.

During a recent sit-down interview with AOL's Gibson Johns promoting her partnership with Clorox, the star opened up about a misguided decision she made earlier this year that set her back during the clay season.

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While playing in the 2019 Italian Open in Rome, Italy, the 39-year-old pro made it to the round of 16, but then she got sick after getting a bit too "confident" with her health and, despite all signs suggesting that she should pull out, Williams decided to play her next match and ultimately lost to Britain's Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-4.

"I got sick this year, unfortunately, and it literally ruined my whole clay court season," she recalled. "I used to travel with all my anti-viral supplements, but then I got lazy and I got comfortable and then, when I needed them, I didn’t have them. It’s a tale of learning from your mistakes. I got comfortable and was like, ‘I’m fine, I haven’t been sick in a long time now!’ And then it hits you."

"I had a match the next day. I went and played a match and it was a nightmare. My physio spent an hour getting me out of bed, because I couldn’t get up. I don’t know why I played -- it was moronic, looking back," she went on. "We all laugh looking at that moment. Sometimes you come out with a miracle, so it’s like, ‘If I don’t play, I’ll have regrets. Can I live with myself?’ So you just go out there, but then the girl just waxed me. Actually, it wasn’t quite a waxing -- it was close -- but it wasn’t good."

Venus Williams helps launch the Clorox Cold and Flu campaign (AP Images for Clorox)

While deciding to play the match while fighting an illness was a clear misstep for the 7-time grand slam champ, as she mentioned, she learned from the mistake and has made more small changes to her routine and travel habits to prevent such a moment from ever happening again.

"I was ill the whole [clay season], so that’s why it’s very important for me to be in environments that are healthy," Williams said. "Obviously washing my hands is important, doing things like not sneezing into your hands and trying to wipe down surfaces and having Clorox Disinfecting Wipes with me wherever I go. For me, that’s in the locker room, because you don’t know about some of these players who I see blowing their nose."

In fact, those minor changes to avoid succumbing to cold and flu season aren't the only changes that she's incorporated into her life recently: Williams explained to AOL that adding in an extra weekly day of rest to her routine several years back completely changed the game for her in terms of maintaining her energy and reaching peak performance on the court.

"I used to train six days a week, then I started doing five days a week and I just saw a boost in performance, which is strange to say, because you’d think that the more you work the better, but it’s interesting that you can take a little bit of time off and come back stronger, even physically," she explained. "You have to let your body recover and not go crazy. I haven’t changed a ton over the years, but I’ve added that rest day in and just continued to work with great people. At this level, everyone’s really good, so to get that extra little pointer that helps you to win that one more point where the momentum swings, those little things are huge."

Williams has also made countless tweaks to her actual tennis game, too, in order to keep up with the rest of the tour.

"I’ve changed so many things in my game recently: My toss, my foot position, my strings and tension," she said. "I’ve changed a zillion things, because I’m always up for change and then you see the progress and how much better it is. It’s very cool, because you come out with this whole new tool set."

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