x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Venus keen to rise to occasion in New York

For a woman who honed her tennis skills on hardcourts in California and Florida, Flushing Meadows has not been a happy hunting ground for Venus Williams since 2001.

Venus Williams won back-to-back US Open titles in 2001 for two of her seven grand slams.
Venus Williams won back-to-back US Open titles in 2001 for two of her seven grand slams.

OAKLAND // For a woman who honed her tennis skills on hardcourts in California and Florida, Flushing Meadows has not been a happy hunting ground for Venus Williams since 2001. That was the last time she picked up the US Open's prized silver trophy and the 29-year-old has not claimed an outdoor hard court title of any kind on American soil since 2002.

No one is more surprised with the barren run than the world No 3 herself. "Totally, but what can I say?" Williams said. "Other than that things have gone pretty well. I'm grateful for all my good results and I've learned from my losses. I definitely want to move forward," she said. Her lack of success on home territory is certainly startling as over the past few years she has taken her Wimbledon tally to five singles titles.

Williams also triumphed at the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha just nine months ago on a similar surface to the one they play on in New York. Forever the optimist, Williams believes it is about time she ended her drought. Williams won back-to-back US Open titles at the start of the decade, beating fellow American Lindsay Davenport in 2000 and her younger sister Serena in 2001. But in 2008, Venus was unable to cash in on 10 set points against Serena and went down 7-6, 7-6 in the quarter-finals.

She also relinquished her cherished Wimbledon crown to Serena last month when she came off second best in the final. As she approaches her 30th birthday, Venus knows that she has only a handful of chances left to add to her haul of seven grand slam singles titles and is therefore not afraid to tinker with her game nearly 15 years after her professional debut. While Venus is still fast and powerful, she has trouble blowing her opponents off the court from the baseline. In order to polish up her attack, she is trying to add a sliced backhand to her repertoire and also make better use of her giant wingspan at the net.

"I'm not stubborn, I like to update. I don't stick with the old. I like to try new things on court and new approaches to training," said Venus, whose most recent appearances in Cincinnati and Toronto ended with early round defeats. "I have to take it as a positive that I will have more time to get ready for the Open. It's been a really busy summer for me so I'll just take advantage of these [early losses] and keep training and preparing for the Open."

The top-seed Russians Nikolay Davydenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova had better match practice as they booked their quarter-final berths at the Pilot Pen hardcourt tournament in New Haven. Davydenko defeated France's Fabrice Santoro 7-5, 6-3 to advance while the French Open champion Kuznetsova clawed her way past Belgian teenager Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 5-7, 7-6. Defending women's champion and second seed Caroline Wozniacki also made it in the last eight, defeating rising Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-4.

Denmark's Wozniacki will play unseeded Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano, who advanced when fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland retired. Radwanska won the first set 6-3 but had dropped the second 6-4 when she retired with a hand injury. * With agencies