x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Williams sets sights on No 1

The world No 6 Venus Williams is in confident mood as the American looks to land her first Australian Open title later this month.

HONG KONG // The world No 6 Venus Williams is in confident mood as the American looks to land her first Australian Open title later this month. Williams, 28, achieved her best result in Melbourne since reaching the 2003 final when losing to eventual runner-up Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals last year . But following an extended off-season break, the Wimbledon champion has eyes on crossing the first grand slam of the year off her dwindling tennis to-do list.

"I feel confident about my game after having some successes last year and I feel great," she said. "The key factors in my career are staying healthy and feeling good and when I am feeling good and staying healthy I get the results." Williams also quashed any question of retirement by stating she has eyes on winning the Olympic gold medal in the singles in London in 2012, while also confirming her ambition to regain the world No 1 ranking.

"I think returning to number one is realistic," she said. "I worked really hard last year to get what I did. I feel like I am in a great position to move forward." Williams ended last year with back-to-back wins in Zurich and the season-ending Tour Championship in Doha and heads to Melbourne looking to extend a nine-match unbeaten streak. "My results speak for themselves, it's not about peaking or not peaking, I have had some great results and I am happy with that," she said.

Williams is using the JB Group Classic exhibition tournament in Hong Kong as her only warm-up ahead of the Australian Open, opting against appearing in WTA tournaments in Brisbane, Auckland, Sydney and Hobart. "I have had many great successes in Hong Kong and the competition this week is high against a lot of the top players," she said. "If I played in a WTA event I wouldn't play against the calibre of players so I get the competition I want in the week that I want."

In the revamped team competition which begins today at Victoria Park, Williams headlines the Americas team alongside compatriot Coco Vandeweghe, the 2008 US Open junior champion, and Argentina's Gisela Dulko. The world No 1 Jelena Jankovic leads the European challenge alongside Hungary's Agnes Szavay and the Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher De Brito, while the world No 18 Anna Chakvetadze has replaced the injured Maria Sharapova in the Russian team alongside the world No 7 Vera Zvonareva and Alexandra Panova.

Finally, Wimbledon semi-finalist Zheng Jie, Indian No 1 Sania Mirza and Hong Kong's Zhang Ling make up the Asia Pacific challenge. * PA Sport