DUBAI // Ana Ivanovic appeared drained and understandably downhearted following her latest scrape with Venus Williams, but at least she was accepting of her fate. She had no choice, really.
The world No 12 had just been subjected to a tennis tour de force at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, her early season vibrancy dulled in crushing fashion as Williams swept to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Williams, once the most feared female in her sport, may currently reside outside the top 40 in the global rankings, but she is showing greener-by-the-week shoots of recovery. Even Ivanovic conceded as much; this was vintage Venus.
“It’s very close,” said the Serb when asked how present-day Williams sizes up against the one who last decade reigned supreme over the women’s game. “We played many times in the past. This is her game, you know.”
Ivanovic is better qualified than most. She has completed nine matches against Williams, but has never fared worse than she did at the Aviation Club yesterday.
As recently as last month, she managed her second victory over the American, beating her in the ASB Classic final in Auckland. There would be no repeat here.
“I learned a lot from that match,” Williams said. “I’ve improved a lot since then, too. I’ve had to take some tough losses, but I’ve learned from them, and made them constructive. That’s what I’m trying to do each time.”
Williams’s latest triumph was built on some powerful groundstrokes – she fired 19 winners – while five aces helped her race through the encounter in just 56 minutes. In a sequence that includes twice seizing the trophy, in 2009 and 2010, Williams’s unbeaten streak in Dubai has stretched to 12 matches. Flavia Pennetta, the qualifier who forms today’s quarter-final opponent, could well find 13 an unlucky number, too.
“People are having to play to the very end to beat me, and I know I can play better,” said Williams, who later crashed out of the doubles tournament along with sister Serena. “So that gives me room for improvement. As long as I’m out here, I’m going to be optimistic.”
Optimism finds root in that she is playing “smarter”, and that can spell only trouble for her rivals. They might not enthuse about her regaining the sort of form that collected seven grand slam titles – five at Wimbledon alone – but Williams, 33, is concerned solely with believing in herself.
“No one is going to do that for me,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of people who won’t believe in you and they’re going to let you know that.
“That’s really not my problem, that’s theirs. Because, guess what? They haven’t won Wimbledon. I have. It keeps me warm at night.”
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