x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Williams ends on a high note

Venus Williams began last week disenchanted with Dubai, suggesting that she would never set foot in the UAE again.

Venus Williams hits a return during her straight sets win over France´s Virginie Razzano in Saturday night's women's final of  the Dubai Tennis Championship.
Venus Williams hits a return during her straight sets win over France´s Virginie Razzano in Saturday night's women's final of the Dubai Tennis Championship.

Venus Williams began last week disenchanted with Dubai, suggesting that she would never set foot in the UAE again. After several days of soul searching and extensive lobbying in support of an aggrieved Women's Tennis Association colleague, the influential American has changed tack.

She is now pledging to return in 12 months time to defend her 40th career title won so impressively, initially by overcoming her sister Serena, the world No 1, in the semi-finals of the Barclays Championships and then by accounting for the unseeded Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano by a margin of 6-4, 6-2 in Saturday's final. "I will definitely defend my title next year," said an elated Williams. "I now feel good about the prospect of coming back here. Having tournaments like this is a victory for women's tennis. It is a large event that is stepping forward. They do a good job here and really care about the players.

"I feel confident that everybody will have the opportunity to play next year. If for some reason that was not the case then we would re-evaluate." By "everybody" Venus meant Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who was refused a visa application which prevented her from taking her place in the 56-woman draw. That exclusion, on the grounds of security, led to crisis talks between the organisers of the tournament and the game's governing body, the WTA, who have imposed a fine of US$300,000 (Dh1.1m) and set down a series of conditions in advance of next year's tournament. Venus is a forthright member of the WTA's players' committee and was as outspoken as anybody during the controversy, sending out the strongest of messages that she and her colleagues would be "considering their options" regarding continuing their support for the rapidly expanding Dubai event.

Clearly she has considered those options already by announcing her intention to make a further visit to the region where she has prospered in recent months, having won her tour's end-of-season championships in Qatar in November. Venus reflected: "I think some wrong decisions were made. Let's hope they were were made for the right reasons. I think we can look forward to another great tournament next year.

"I am not here to rock any boats or to upset people. I am just here to try to do what is right. I think the right things will happen during the men's event because Andy Ram [the Isreali doubles specialist] has got his visa which is great. "I think a lot of that is because of what Shahar went through and because everybody cared." Venus made a point of mentioning the name of Peer during her on-court victory speech. "I felt it was important to do that," she said. "I got the most opportunity to say something about her because I had hold of the the mic most of the time.

"I thought it was brave of her to want to play here. I felt I had a small opportunity to say something to those who would have a chance to listen." Venus will now turn her thoughts on trying to make more progress up the world rankings, eventually challenging Serena, her sister, again for the coveted top spot. "Things are going so well for me and the Williamses are holding all the biggest titles since Wimbledon, including this one," she declared.

"If your name is Williams it is a good time. The plan now is to keep winning and stay healthy. Hopefully Serena and I will keep going for glory and enjoying ourself." The new Dubai women's champion spared a thought for Razzano whom she denied the prestigious trophy in a final which was extremely tight in the first set. "She has played really well this week," said Venus in recognition of Razzano's victories over two top-five players in Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva.

"She had a great game plan against me to come out and attack. She knew she would have been in trouble if she had let me control the points. "I am used to opponents playing well against me. The players tend to come out and go for broke against me. I had to play a bit defensively at times out there but in the end I managed to get the job done." wjohnson@thenational.ae