Venus seeks her first sin­gles ti­tle in Mel­bourne

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Ontv -

Her man­tel may be full of Grand Slam tro­phies and Olympic gold medals, but one lau­rel that has eluded Venus Wil­liams over her long and sto­ried ca­reer is an Aus­tralian Open sin­gles ti­tle.

And she’ll get a chance to change that be­gin­ning Sun­day, Jan. 13, on ESPN2, when Wil­liams takes to the Plex­i­cush­ion courts of Mel­bourne Park to com­pete in the ten­nis year’s first Grand Slam tour­na­ment. And she’ll need to shake off her off­sea­son cob­webs very early on if she’s to ex­pect to stand up to the blaz­ing heat of the Aus­tralian sum­mer and com­pe­ti­tion from the likes of sis­ter and seven-time champ Ser­ena Wil­liams, 2018 win­ner Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, 2018 fi­nal­ist Si­mona Halep and up-and-com­ing Aussie star Ash­leigh Barty.

While she’s had suc­cess in dou­bles in Mel­bourne, win­ning four ti­tles, a sin­gles ti­tle has proved elu­sive for the 38-year-old na­tive of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She’s come close twice, mak­ing it to the fi­nals in 2003 and 2017 be­fore los­ing to her sis­ter both times.

She comes into the new year off a dis­ap­point­ing 2018, a year that saw her put up a 17-11 record with no ti­tles while slip­ping to world No. 38, thus putting an end to her run of four con­sec­u­tive top-20 fin­ishes. In­juries were thought to play a role in her de­cline but one can’t help but won­der if age was a fac­tor as well. In any case, she re­cently parted ways with her coach, David Witt, after 11 years.

Might 2019 be the last hur­rah for Venus Wil­liams? A long run to the fi­nals at Mel­bourne would cer­tainly put any ru­mors of re­tire­ment to rest – at least in the short term.

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