Venus Williams and Tomas Berdych bare it all in ESPN The Magazine’s sixth annual Body Issue, which celebrates the athletic form and features athletes from a variety of different sports. Serena Williams, James Blake, Agnieszka Radwanska and John Isner have all been featured over the past five years.
Asked about the revealing photo shoot after her 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in the first round of Wimbledon, Venus joked that she did it because Serena did and admitted it was a little bit awkward.
“I just kept cracking jokes and that definitely made it fun,” she said before adding, “I think I’m in better shape now. Hope we can do a reshoot.”
Venus told ESPN that her tall, lean body rejects muscle and bulk. “If I don’t go to the gym for a week, I just get thinner and thinner,” she said. “My body just doesn’t want it. I’m full of oil, I guess.” That makes it tough given her battle with fatigue due to Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease she was diagnosed with in 2011.
“At my worst point, I wasn’t able to play tennis at all,” she said. “Just the whole quality of my life was compromised — and uncomfortable. It’s very difficult to understand unless you’ve gone through it. Especially as a professional athlete, there’s never any acceptable excuse. You push and you push and you’ll die on the court if you have to, but you get it done. The whole experience is just foreign as an athlete. You have to accept that you’re never going to be 100 percent. So, how do you get past those roadblocks?”
Speaking about his 6-foot-5 frame, Berdych says he’s often the butt of his own fitness trainer’s jokes.
“He says because of my legs and upper body, I’m two people in one,” he said. “But being heavier down low, rather than up top, is what has been working in my case. The ideal plan would be skinnier and lighter legs and a little bit more on the upper body. But it’s not something where you go into a store and say, ‘I want that.’”
Berdych also emphasized the importance of the mind over body, revealing that he has a mental coach.
“I think this is one of the parts of the game that not so many people talk about,” he said. “I’ve worked with him for about five years now, and I think it’s worked quite well. These days, tennis is about all the small details; if you can get 2-3 percent here and 2-3 percent there, it’s just perfect.”
Read the full interview with Venus here and with Berdych here. The issue hits newsstands on July 11th.