Venus beats Woz­ni­acki to reach Miami Open quar­ters

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN WINE

Bask­ing in her lat­est victory, a beam­ing Venus Wil­liams stood near her changeover chair launch­ing au­to­graphed balls into the stands, steer­ing her shots with body English and ap­plaud­ing the fans who scram­bled for the sou­venirs.

For Wil­liams, ten­nis is still fun. She’s 34 but on the rise in the rank­ings, and she beat for­mer No. 1 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki 6-3, 7-6 (1) Mon­day to reach the Miami Open quar­ter­fi­nals.

Wil­liams is a three-time Key Bis­cayne cham­pion, but her most re­cent ti­tle came in 2001. Seeded 16th, she’s into the quar­ter­fi­nals at the tour­na­ment for the first time since 2012.

She could meet her sis­ter Serena in the fi­nal. Serena, who has won the tour­na­ment a record seven times, ad­vanced by beat­ing 2006 cham­pion Svet­lana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3.

Amer­i­can Sloane Stephens made it to the fi­nal eight at Key Bis­cayne for the first time by beat­ing 18-year-old Belinda Ben­cic 6- 4, 7- 6 ( 5).

In men’s third- round play, f our- t i me cham­pion No­vak Djokovic de­feated qual­i­fier Steve Dar­cis 6-0, 7-5 and will next face Alexandr Dol­go­polov. No. 4 Kei Nishikori and No. 5 Mi­los Raonic also won.

No. 22 John Is­ner, the lone re­main­ing Amer­i­can in the men’s draw, de­feated No. 9 Grigor Dim­itrov 7- 6 ( 2), 6- 2.

While Serena Wil­liams, 33, has been ranked No. 1 for the past two years, Venus’ for­tunes are only lately on the up­swing af­ter health is­sues caused a long slump that stirred re­tire­ment spec­u­la­tion.

In Jan­uary at the Aus­tralian Open, she reached her first Grand Slam quar­ter­fi­nal in five years be­fore los­ing, and with the victory over Woz­ni­acki, she’s 4-0 in 2015 against top-10 play­ers.

Venus skipped In­dian Wells, where Serena re­cently ended a 14-year fam­ily boy­cott af­ter be­ing booed there as a teenager. Venus said it was won­der­ful to see the warm re­cep­tion her sis­ter re­ceived there this month, but was non­com­mit­tal re­gard­ing whether she’ll re­turn.

Given the way she’s play­ing lately, she might have sev­eral chances. Wil­liams cred­its her per­sis­tence and op­ti­mistic na­ture for her re­cent resur­gence, which comes more than three years af­ter she was di­ag­nosed with an au­toim­mune dis­ease that can cause joint pain and sap en­ergy.

Un­like her sis­ter, she has never tired of ten­nis, a prob­lem for some top play­ers even be­fore their skills decline.

Wil­liams won Mon­day with her familiar high-wire ap­proach, swing­ing ag­gres­sively from the base­line. Some­times she missed badly, but she hit 40 win­ners to nine for Woz­ni­acki.

She moved for­ward more of­ten than in the past, win­ning 14 points at the net, and used her long strides to chase down balls in the cor­ners and ex­tend ral­lies.

The sta­dium crowd ap­plauded Wil­liams’ stay­ing power. So did the 21-year-old Stephens, who could face her in the fi­nal.

Key Bis­cayne has al­ways ranked among Wil­liams’ fa­vorite tour­na­ments, be­cause she lives 90 min­utes up I-95 in Palm Beach Gar­dens. She’s play­ing in the event for the 16th time, which leaves lots of room for rem­i­nisc­ing.

She en­joys look­ing back, and also look­ing ahead. She’ll face Carla Suarez Navarro on Tues­day night for a berth in the semi­fi­nals.

AP

Venus Wil­liams re­turns the ball to Caro­line Woz­ni­acki dur­ing their match at the Miami Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in Key Bis­cayne, Florida on Mon­day, March 30.

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