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Championships Profile: Venus Williams
DOHA, Qatar – If timing is everything, the Tour’s season-ending Championships have missed a beat with Venus Williams, at least in the past. Two semifinal showings from two appearances are certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but for a seven-time Grand Slam champion and former world No.1, the event has brought its share of disappointment.
Those stats don’t tell the full story, though: Venus has in fact made the cut on five other occasions, only to find that while the head said ‘go’, the body said ‘no’. This means tennis fans in Doha are in for a particular treat, for the 28-year-old American will be playing the Championships for the first time in six years, having assumed her rightful place among the game’s very best by qualifying seventh.
Venus first qualified for the Tour Championships in 1998, but was forced to withdraw with tendonitis in her left knee. That meant her debut was postponed until 1999, when she lost to great rival Martina Hingis in the first of those two semis. But in 2000 the problem was anemia; in 2001 a left wrist injury. Even her second semifinal run, in 2002, was marred by physical problems, with a lower leg strain causing a mid-match retirement against Kim Clijsters. Since then there has been an abdominal injury (2004) and illness (2007).
All this merely serves to contrast with the player who is Doha this week, fighting fit and possibly more energised than ever. It’s not hard to see why: a rousing fifth singles title at Wimbledon put Venus in third place on the all-time list of winners behind Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf; then came doubles glory at the Olympics with sister Serena. What’s more, Venus is one of three players launching their Doha campaigns on a winning streak, having collected her second title of 2008, and the 38th of her career, at Zürich a few weeks ago.
It hasn’t been a perfect season – in Memphis Venus suffered her worst ever loss in terms of rankings at the hands of Czech qualifier Petra Kvitova, the world No. 143 – but other high points in a consistently strong year have included semifinal runs at Bangalore and Stuttgart, as well as quarterfinal appearances at the Australian Open, the Olympics, and the Tier I events at Miami and Rome. A last eight showing at the US Open should also not be forgotten, for Venus and Serena kept the Flushing Meadows crowd spellbound by one of their most gripping encounters.
During 2008 Venus has proved, yet again, that she knows how to deliver on the big stages. Her opponents this week – who necessarily include Serena, drawn in the same round robin pool – should watch out.
“I am really pleased to have qualified,” Venus said. “Competing in a round robin format against the players who have performed the best in 2008 is an exciting challenge. This year has been a very positive year for me and I am looking forward to continued success.”