x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Venus talks up her Dubai chances

The American is not ready to hang up racket and the seven-time grand slam winner said her hunger for victory has not diminished.

Venus Williams fancies her chances at the Dubai Tennis Championships this season.
Venus Williams fancies her chances at the Dubai Tennis Championships this season.

DUBAI // When Venus Williams completed a Middle East double a year ago by adding the Dubai title to the season-ending WTA Tour championships in Doha, the American looked to roll back the years and enjoy another stellar season. Those high expectations, boosted by an immediate follow-up success in Acapulco a week later, were seriously misplaced, however, as the former world No 1 has been forced to endure a frustratingly barren spell ever since.

Failure to add to her 41 career titles - seven of them in grand slams - brought suggestions the powers of Venus are on the wane as her younger sister Serena tends to win a lot more when it matters. Venus was dismissive of that theory, though, as she talked up her chances of making a successful defence in Dubai where 12 months ago she completed an excellent week's work by overcoming Serena in the semi-finals before accounting for the unexpected French finalist Virginie Razzano.

"I've been close in a few big tournaments since winning here last year," said Venus, who insisted her hunger for success is still as sharp as she approaches her 30th birthday as it was when she and Serena exploded into the tennis world as ultra-ambitious teenagers. "I love what I do and I'm quite good at it which makes it a lot easier to keep going on court," she said. "I don't think about allowing my hunger to diminish. I am always trying to take it to the next level. I keep trying continually to improve. And the day I am not improving will be the day I hang up the racket."

Venus, who has a bye into the second round of a high-quality Dubai tournament - only Serena and Dinara Safina of the top names are missing from the 56-woman line-up - oozed confidence as she prepared to begin her defence against Germany's Sabine Lisicki. "I was really happy to win here last year," she said. "And I just want to add another title. I have never felt pressure defending titles and I don't expect that to be an issue here. Wherever I go I want to win, but if I don't then I just move on to the next tournament. I feel good about my prospects because I'm pretty healthy at the moment. Fingers crossed now that I have said I feel good, nothing will happen."

Venus's chances of another Dubai triumph are considerably enhanced by Serena's absence from the top of the draw as the newly-crowned Australian Open champion recovers from a knee injury. With world No 2 Safina also failing to take her Dubai place, the honour of top seeding goes to last year's US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, the charming Danish teenager. Wozniacki, scheduled to meet the third-seeded Venus in the semi-finals, was proud of her position in such an elitist draw.

"It's the first time I've been number one in such a big tournament," she said. "It's nice. It means I have done some good results." wjohnson@thenational.ae