Thirteen years since she first became world No.1, can Venus Williams’ late-career renaissance continue at AO 2015?
It seems absurd that a former world number one and multiple Grand Slam champion can be overshadowed at Australian Open 2015, not least by her very own sister. But that’s the predicament of Venus Williams, who, at 34, is approaching the twilight of her time on the tour.
Nonetheless, Venus remains a realistic chance to display her dominant best in Melbourne this January. She has timed her run toward this year’s tournament with purpose and promising form, last year producing her best season since she fell victim to a string of injuries and health problems stretching back to 2010.
In 2014, Venus reached the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open, won the Dubai Tennis Championship, and produced an incredible run to the final of Montreal, defeating Angelique Kerber, Carla Suarez Navarro and sister Serena before falling to Agnieszka Radwanska in the decider.
Out to prove that 2014 wasn’t an anomaly, she began her 2015 campaign by taking the Auckland Open final over Caroline Wozniacki in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-3. Despite a shaky start, it was a return to what had once made Venus so unstoppable.
Convention suggests Venus’ best years are well behind her. Though Serena has proved that she can improve with age, Venus has struggled to replicate the form that has brought her 46 career titles and 22 in Grand Slams (seven in singles, 13 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles). But despite Williams facing her 35th birthday later this year, the notion that she is slowing with age may not prove true. If she can replicate her recent form in Auckland, her current world ranking of 18 suddenly seems low.
The proof of any prolonged resurgence will come on the big stage of the year’s first major in Melbourne. Williams hasn’t reached the semifinal of a Slam since the US Open in 2010, and hasn’t won a major since Wimbledon in 2008. Despite that drought, Williams has the obvious experience, ability and strength to prolong her career for at least a few years yet. She’s in excellent form, and with little expectation resting on her shoulders, Williams is approaching what could be her final chance at winning another major.
It’s been a long time since the world was first introduced to the unlikely sisters hailing from Compton, California, who once modelled identical hairdos of endless beads. Now matured, the sisters have well and truly found their own style, and rightfully demand their own accolades as individuals. And their determination to succeed despite the odds being stacked against them remains as strong as ever.
For Venus, the signs of a buoyant comeback are evident. Perhaps it will take her younger sister to stop her.