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.

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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Venus Williams through her career
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Venus Williams through her career
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: Venus Williams of the U.S. returns the ball to Kristina Mladenovic of France during the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy-2017 tennis tournament match on February 2, 2017 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Il'ja Smirnov/Kommersant via Getty Images)
Tennis prodigy Venus Williams, 14 , of Pompano Beach, Florida, waits to take the court in Oakland, October 27. She will make her professional debut at the WTA Tour tournament in Oakland, on October 31, taking advantage of a soon-to-be defunct rule that admits 14-year-olds to the pro ranks
Venus Williams of the United States backhands a second set volley with Martina Hingis of Switzerland on March 23 during the third round of the Lipton Championships. Williams lost to Hingis in straight sets 6-4 6-2. SPORT TENNIS
Venus Williams (L) of the United States and sister Serena Williams laugh as they celebrate their doubles win at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows September 12, 1999. The Williams sisters defeated Sandrine Testud of France and Chandra Rubin of the United States 4-6 6-1 6-4 to win the title. PJ
Venus Williams of the USA smiles after winning her match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand at the French Open at Roland Garros stadium June 1st. Venus Williams won 6-2 6-2. JCK/WS
Venus Williams of the US is all smiles as she poses for photographers with the trophy after defeating [Lindsay Davenport] in the final, July 8. Williams won the match 6-3 7-6 to take the title.
Venus Williams of the United States returns to Nathalie Tauziat of France during their match at the U.S. Open in New York September 5, 2000. PJ/SV
U.S. second world ranking tennis player Venus Williams flashes a smile as she holds up the trophy after winning the final against her compatriot Meghann Shaughnessy at the "Betty Barclay Cup 2001" in Hamburg May 6, 2001. Williams won in straight sets 6-3 6-0. CHA/CRB
Venus Williams of the U.S.A. reacts after winning her third round match against Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova at the Australian Open in Melbourne January 18, 2002. Williams won in three sets 3-6 6-0 6-4. REUTERS/Mark Baker MDB/RCS
Venus Williams of the U.S. serves during her match against Russia's Elena Bovina during the Trilogy Tennis Tournament, The Collins Cup, at the Royal Dublin Stadium in Ireland December 7, 2002. REUTERS/Paul McErlane PM/NMB/CMC
Tennis star Venus Williams applauds Reebok Human Rights Award winner [Christian Mukosa, a lawyer and human rights monitor in the Kivu provinces of the Congo], as she waits to present him his award during ceremonies in Boston, April 10, 2003. The awards are given annually to young human rights activists under the age of thirty from all over the world.
Venus Williams of the U.S. returns to Belgium's Kim Clijsters in their women's singles semi-final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 3, 2003. Williams won the match 4-6 6-3 6-1. REUTERS/Ian Hodgson REUTERS IH/ASA
Venus Williams (R) shows pictures to Billie Jean King (L) during the Federations Cup match in Portoroz, April 25, 2004. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic SZ
U.S tennis players Serena (L) and Venus Williams smile during a children's tennis practice session on court at Wimbledon in south west london, June 17, 2004. The Wimbledon championships begin on June 21.
Venus Williams celebrates after winning her quarterfinal match against Serena Williams at the Nasdaq 100 Open. Venus Williams celebrates after winning her quarterfinal match against her sister Serena Williams at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, March 29, 2005. Venus won the match 6-1 7-6 (8-6.) The Williams sisters have meet 14 times, Serena has won five of the last six and leads the series 7-6. REUTERS/Jason Arnold
Venus Williams of the U.S reacts during her match against [Bulgaria's Sesil Karatantcheva] in the third round of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros May 27, 2005. [Karatantcheva won 6-3 1-6 6-1.]
Venus Williams arrives during a ceremony to honor Billie Jean King at the U.S. Open in New York, August 28, 2006. The tennis center was renamed the Billie Jean King USTA Tennis Center. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES)
Venus Williams of the U.S. returns a shot to Maria Kirilenko of Russia during women's single final at the Korea Open tennis tournament in Seoul September 30, 2007. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak (SOUTH KOREA)
Venus Williams of the U.S. returns the ball to Elena Dementieva of Russia during their quarter-final match at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships February 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Venus Williams of the U.S. returns the ball to Samantha Stosur of Australia during their Madrid Open tennis quarter-final match May 14, 2010. REUTERS/Susana Vera (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
U.S. tennis player Venus Williams smiles during a news conference at the Sports Congress and Exhibition at Aspire Dome in Doha November 13, 2011. Williams said Sunday she has changed her diet following the autoimmune disease that kept her out of this year's U.S. Open and is hoping the new approach will propel her back to the top of the women's tennis rankings. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad (QATAR - Tags: SPORT TENNIS SOCIETY)
Serena Williams (L) and her sister Venus Williams, of the U.S., pose with their gold medals during the presentation ceremony for the women's doubles tennis at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 5, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT TENNIS)
Venus Williams of the U.S. hits a return shot to Maria Kirilenko of Russia during their first round match in the 2012 Cincinnati Open tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 14, 2012. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
Venus Williams of the U.S. reacts after winning the match point during a women's singles match against Simona Halep of Romania at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
Venus Williams of the U.S. holds the trophy after defeating Alize Cornet of France in their women's singles final match at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships, February 22, 2014.REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
Venus Williams of the U.S. smiles after defeating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia during their fourth round match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 6, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Venus Williams attends the Ocean Drive Magazine and Roche Bobois celebrate the December Issue with Heidi Klum on November 29, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Sergi Alexander/Getty Images)
Venus Williams of the US celebrates her victory against Coco Vandeweghe of the US during their women's singles semi-final match on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2017. / AFP / PETER PARKS / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Ternnis star Venus Williams on the court during the 22nd Annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2017 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24: Tennis player Venus Williams plays badminton during the 2017 Lotte New York Palace Invitational at Lotte New York Palace on August 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24: Professional tennis player Venus Williams attends the 2017 Lotte New York Palace Invitational at Lotte New York Palace on August 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for LOTTE New York Palace)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 16: Venus Williams of the United States hits a forehand during a match in the Western & Southern Open on August 16, 2017 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 7: Venus Williams of the United States prepares to return a serve against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania during Day 3 of the Rogers Cup at Aviva Centre on August 7, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 24: Tennis player Venus Williams attends the 2017 Mylan World TeamTennis Washington Kastles vs Philadelphia Freedoms match at Michael J. Hagan Arena at St. Joseph's University on July 24, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15: Venus Williams of The United States in action against Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon on July 15, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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