DUBAI // Venus Williams last night spoke of the excitement she felt making a triumphant return to the UAE to repeat last year's Dubai Tennis Championship triumph. The seven-time grand slam champion said after defeating a gallant final opponent in Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5: "It's wonderful to defend my title here and it was great that everybody could be involved this year."
The reference to "everybody" was an acknowledgement to the inclusion of Shahar Peer in this year's high-class line-up after the Israeli had been denied a visa to enter the country last year. "Last year we had issues when I won here," said Williams after clinching her 42nd career title, that puts her one more tournament victory away from entering the all-time top 10. "This year it has been great. In this part of the world they love having big sporting events. I know that Dubai wants to be the sporting capital of the world and with this kind of spirit more events can come here. This makes for a better future for sport in this part of the world."
Williams, 29, is hoping that another Dubai title in the early part of the season will be the springboard for a more successful 2010 than 2009 when she added only the Acapulco title to her list and drew a frustrating blank in the showpiece events on the calendar. "I'm much fitter now," she enthused. "I have been playing without the strapping on my thighs so far this year. I hate that strapping and it's so much easier for me to move at the moment so I'm hoping for a really good year at this stage of my career."
A winner's cheque of US$350,000 (Dh1.3m) took the elder of the two Williams sisters to within striking distance of US$26m in career earnings. "I'm planning to be around for some time yet," she warned. firstname.lastname@example.org