VENUS RIS­ING

With big names miss­ing, Amer­i­can vet­eran could win her first French Open ti­tle

New Straits Times - - Sport -

VET­ERAN Venus Wil­liams could blast through the huge holes in the women’s draw and win her first French Open at the age of 36 next month, ac­cord­ing to former World No 3 Pam Shriver.

With Venus’ preg­nant sis­ter and three-time French cham­pion Ser­ena ab­sent, Rus­sia’s twice win­ner Maria Shara­pova fail­ing to gain a wild­card af­ter re­turn­ing from a dop­ing ban and Be­laru­sian Vic­to­ria Azarenka still not back af­ter be­com­ing a mother, the big­gest names in the women’s game are miss­ing.

Add in the poor form of Ger­man World No 1 An­gelique Ker­ber and Spain’s de­fend­ing cham­pion Gar­bine Mugu­ruza and an an­kle in­jury for new ti­tle favourite Si­mona Halep of Ro­ma­nia and the of­ten un­pre­dictable clay­court slam looks wide open.

Pam feels Venus could be the one to take ad­van­tage de­spite only hav­ing two quar­ter-fi­nal runs in Paris since los­ing to Ser­ena in her only French Open fi­nal in 2002.

“I think there are so many pos­si­bil­i­ties in the works,” Pam told a con­fer­ence call hosted by broad­caster ESPN, who she will be work­ing for dur­ing the Roland Gar­ros fort­night.

“I’ve seen some draws that are wide open on the women’s side but I’ve never seen a sit­u­a­tion like this.

“Venus com­ing off what she did at the Australian Open get­ting to her first grand slam fi­nal since she knew she had the auto-im­mune syn­drome (Sjo­gren’s Syn­drome) and now know­ing that her sis­ter is not in the draw. Can she win it? Why not?

“She is a more ca­pa­ble clay­court player than most peo­ple think and when you con­sider the big hit­ters that have won in the women’s game, Maria twice in the last few years and Gar­bine last year, Venus is def­i­nitely one of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

Seven-time French Open cham­pion Chris Evert agreed that Venus, who has won seven grand slam ti­tles but none for nearly a decade, stands out as a player who has been there and done it in a field low on proven qual­ity.

“Venus is a very ca­pa­ble clay­court player, she’s won grand slams be­fore and the men­tal part of the game is go­ing to be very im­por­tant this year,” Chris said.

With 23-time grand slam cham­pion Ser­ena vow­ing to re­turn next year fol­low­ing her pregnancy, there is a win­dow for a new face to es­tab­lish a grip on the women’s game.

But Pam said few can­di­dates spring to mind.

“Right now, hon­estly there is no heir ap­par­ent, a teenager who seems to have it all,” she said. “I don’t think we are go­ing to have a dom­i­nant player af­ter Ser­ena goes.”

EPA PIC

Venus Wil­liams serves to Yaroslava Shve­dova in the first round of the Ital­ian Open on May 15.

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