Venus Wil­liams ready for re­turn at WTA fi­nals

Ten­nis

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - SPORT -

Venus Wil­liams re­turns to the year-end WTA fi­nals for the first time since reach­ing the 2009 fi­nal, and the fifth time over­all, start­ing to­day in Sin­ga­pore.

Wil­liams joins top-ranked Si­mona Halep of Ro­ma­nia, se­cond-ranked Gar­bine Mugu­ruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Repub­lic, fourth-ranked Elina Svi­tolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caro­line Woz­ni­acki of Den­mark, sev­en­thranked Je­lena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caro­line Gar­cia of France.

They’re all pretty spe­cial,” said Wil­liams, of her ca­reer ap­pear­ances in the year-end com­pe­ti­tion. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Wil­liams is the third old­est player to qual­ify for the year-end cham­pi­onships be­hind a 39-year-old Bil­lie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Wil­liams is the old­est player in this draw with 27-year-old Woz­ni­acki the next old­est.

Hav­ing played since 1995, Wil­liams has seen the women’s game ad­vance, say­ing: “The com­pe­ti­tion is so much greater. It’s a beau­ti­ful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Wil­liams won the WTA fi­nals ti­tle, go­ing 3-0 in the round-robin, and de­feat­ing Vera Zvonareva of Rus­sia in the fi­nal.

She was also was a semi­fi­nal­ist in her first two ap­pear­ances in the fi­nals, in 1999 and 2000.

Wil­liams reached two Grand Slam fi­nals this sea­son at the Aus­tralian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an al­ready preg­nant younger sis­ter, Ser­ena, and at Wim­ble­don, where she fell to Mugu­ruza.

Ev­ery player but Gar­cia has a pos­si­bil­ity of play­ing them­selves into the year-end No. 1 rank­ing de­pend­ing on their re­sult this week. Wil­liams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her ca­reer.

In the round-robin, Wil­liams is sit­u­ated in the White Group with fel­low big-hit­ters Mugu­ruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time dur­ing this sea­son, and French Open cham­pion Je­lena Ostapenko.

Wil­liams opens the com­pe­ti­tion against Pliskova on Sun­day. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 win­ning record over Mugu­ruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more ag­gres­sive style play­ers in the group and the other one is more de­fend­ing,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play bet­ter these play­ers.

“I start with Venus to­mor­row, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

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