After more than two decades on the professional tennis circuit, Venus Williams is on an upswing and shows little sign of slowing, turning in one of her strongest seasons in years.
The American veteran took the crown at the Wuhan Open Saturday — her biggest win since 2010 and her 47th career title — when Garbine Muguruza retired in the second set.
“I know I had my chances. But I knew with Venus, it’s hard. With her serve, with her shots, if you’re not 100 percent,” said the 21-year-old Spaniard after the match.
The 35-year-old star, who has long dominated women’s tennis with her younger sister Serena, looked on form at Wuhan and retirement seems to be far from her mind.
She is travelling to Beijing next for the China Open and might yet qualify for the year-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, which she hadn’t made since 2009.
“I absolutely do want to play and I’ll do everything I can to be ready to play. I want to be as close to 100 percent as possible. So that’s my goal,” Williams said of the Beijing tournament after her win in Wuhan.
And she’s sure to be back next year, with her sights already firmly set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“That will be awesome to be able to play there, represent the US again. That will be an honour,” she said.
– ‘Never gets old’ –
Today Williams regularly goes up against players who were barely as tall as a tennis racket when she first appeared on the professional circuit in 1994 — the year her challenger at Wuhan Muguruza was born — and might be forgiven if she opted to slow down.
In 2011 she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Disease, an immune system disease that often leaves her exhausted.
The illness threatened to end her career, but with the help of a new diet Williams has returned to the upper echelons, reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-finals since 2010 in Australia before losing to her sister in the fourth round of Wimbledon this year.
This summer the seven-time Grand Slam winner also had another kind of victory — graduating from Indiana University East with a degree in business administration.
Off and on the court she remains a dominant force in tennis, where she has also emerged as an influential campaigner for equal prize money for women.
“I think anyone who goes up against Venus… and expects an easy or a quick one is quite crazy,” said Briton Johanna Konta, who fell to Williams in the quarter-finals at Wuhan.
Williams next heads to Beijing, where she will once again be the oldest player in the main draw, but with one thing on her mind.
“I always want to be in finals. Doesn’t matter what stage I’m in. Even if it was the last tournament of my career, I would still want to be in that final,” she said.
“It just never gets old.”