Venus Williams eyeing late career renaissance

Venus Williams has long been hindered by illness and injury but the seven-time Grand Slam champion is feeling more upbeat this year than she has for some time.

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 21, 2015, 08:23 AM IST
Venus Williams eyeing late career renaissance

Melbourne: Venus Williams has long been hindered by illness and injury but the seven-time Grand Slam champion is feeling more upbeat this year than she has for some time.

The elder Williams sister is on a 6-0 run, having won the lead-up Auckland Classic title -- beating world number eight Caroline Wozniacki in the final -- and then her first match at the Australian Open.

It is a continuation of the form she showed in 2014, when she reached the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open, won the Dubai Tennis Championship, and made the final of Montreal, defeating sister Serena en route.

The 34-year-old American, one of the oldest women on tour, hasn`t won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2008 and few are betting on her changing that at Melbourne Park.

But she feels her form is getting back to its best after a long battle with the energy-sapping Sjogren`s Syndrome, which was diagnosed in 2011, and a string of injuries.

Williams adopted a raw foods diet to ease her symptoms and decrease inflammation in her body and is trying to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon in 2011.

"You know, I got issues, but so do a lot of people. Everyone has different kinds of issues, and I deal with my own the best way that I can," she said of her recent battles.

"I`m creeping closer. I did enter the top 20 again. But I had some issues, and now I`m back again, and I`d like to think that moving forward I have a lot of good days ahead of me in terms of health. 

"I think also learning to manage things, because it`s a mental challenge when you don`t feel well.

"I think I`m learning to manage that a lot better."

Despite the setbacks, and watching Serena power to 18 Grand Slam titles, Williams said her will to win was undimmed after easily beating Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in straight sets on Tuesday

"I love the game, I love the thrill, I love the `Go Venus`," she said.

"It takes a lot of work to get to this level, so while I can play I`m going to play, when I can`t I`m going to watch it on TV."

Williams has made the final at Melbourne Park once, in 2003, along with one appearance in the semis and five in the quarters since she debuted in 1998.

She faces compatriot Lauren Davis next up and despite not having the agility of the younger players, she said experience counted for a lot.

"When I get out here on court, I feel like I rely on experience," she said. 

"I feel even if I`m playing my worst tennis, I still have a chance in every match. So if I can just play well, I have an even better chance."