DUBAI // Time stops for no woman, yet when the woman in question is 33 years old and enjoying a renaissance in her chosen profession after a three-year battle with incurable illness, perhaps joy can be found in watching the future arrive on the face of a watch.
Venus Williams, the venerated American who was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome in 2011, overpowered Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday night at the Aviation Club to secure her first Premier-level title since her victory here in 2010. The victory sees her become only the second female after Justine Henin to win at least three titles at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
In celebration, Williams revealed she was flying home immediately and would, at Dubai airport, be on the look out for a new watch – a splurge she can surely afford after collecting a winner’s cheque for $471,841 (Dh1.7m).
“Usually I look at watches, so I don’t know what it’s going to be,” she said, smiling. “We’ll see – I love the watch with the calculator.”
If she is looking for some gentle arithmetic, she could do worse than consider a few figures from her final:
15: The number of rankings places she will rise (from No 44 to No 29) after beating Cornet.
11: The number of games from 12 that she won against Cornet after being broken in the third game.
83: The percentage of break points she saved (five from six).
Williams’s victory also takes her winning streak at the Aviation Club to 15 consecutive matches after triumphing at successive tournaments in 2009 and 2010 before skipping the next three while fighting her fatigue-inducing illness.
“When things got tough this week, I definitely got going,” Williams, who also reached the final in Auckland last month, said.
“If I was down break point, when push came to shove, I was pushing and shoving. But I think I just improved so much. I’m playing bigger points and converting. That’s what I needed to be able to do. That takes time for any player; took time for me to continue to learn how to do that, put myself in the position and then finally start getting across the finish line.”
Both players came into the final having not dropped a set all week, with Cornet beating Williams's sister Serena, the world No 1, in the semi-finals the previous day. Venus spoke of the motivation she takes from an opponent beating her sister and mentioned twice post-match that she had been "definitely fully expecting to play Serena".
Yet an intense start by Cornet saw the two players contend engrossing rallies before Cornet broke to take a 2-1 lead. The French right-hander, however, could not hold serve in the next game and an ineffective drop shot in the seventh allowed Williams to power her way to a 5-2 lead. The seven-time grand slam winner never looked back.
Such was the comprehensive result of the second set, Cornet appeared to break down in tears mid-match, an emotional moment she attributed to her inability to take advantage of, first, her first-set lead, and, second, the two break points she had in the fourth game of the second set.
“Alize is playing great,” Williams said. “If she continues to play like that, she’s going to play deep in a lot of tournaments and improve. It’s great to see that, because she’s a great addition to the game. She brings so much passion on the court, so it’s great to see her playing well.”
With the French Open still three months away, Williams is not looking too far into the future. She is taking things slowly, one day at a time, and looking to become a better player for it.
“Winning all those grand slam titles and playing deep and getting to the final so many times, those are amazing accomplishments,” she said.
“It takes a lot of nerve, a lot of mental prowess, so I’d like to think I’m on that path. I’m not looking to do anything I did in the past though, because I already did that. I’m looking to improve and be a better, smarter Venus. Obviously this week is a step; every week for me is a step.”
Rodionova and Kudryavtseva win women’s doubes final after tie-breaker
Anastasia Rodionova and Alla Kudryavtseva prevailed in tense match tie-break to down the American pair of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears for the doubles title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.
Having won the first set 6-2, the Australian-Russian pair were edged 7-5 in the second and faced a stiff resistance from the Americans, who saved two match-points in the tie-break before losing 10-8.
“It’s not like it’s gonna happen every week, but it’s already our second title this year, and I’m really happy with the way we both are playing on the court,” Rodionova said.
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