Venus backs her sister Serena in WTA comeback

AP
Venus Williams gave a scouting report on her warm-up partner that sounded the same as always: Serena Williams is back, and her game hasn't left.
AP
AFP

Venus Williams of the United States, left, congratulates Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who defeated her during the first round of the Tie Break Tens tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Venus Williams gave a scouting report on her warm-up partner that sounded the same as always: Serena Williams is back, and her game hasn’t left.

“She’s got power, depth. She knows how to play,” Venus said. “Yeah, awesome game.”

The Williams sisters were the headliners in the recent Tie Break Tens tournament at Madison Square Garden, an eight-woman event in which all matches were 10-point tiebreakers, instead of the usual games and sets.

Serena won her first match but lost in the semifinals. Elina Svitolina of Ukraine dominated the event, winning 17 straight points during victories over Venus and CoCo Vandeweghe before defeating China’s Zhang Shuai 10-3 to win US$250,000.

Serena was playing singles for the first time this year as she prepares to return to the WTA Tour for the first time since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. 

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion later revealed she developed several small blood clots in her lungs after giving birth.

She had played just once this year, losing a Fed Cup doubles match with Venus last month, and hasn’t played a singles match on tour since winning the 2017 Australian Open, where she beat Venus in the final.

Serena won her first match against Marion Bartoli of France, the former Wimbledon champion who is ending a four-and-a-half-year retirement, but lost 13-11 to Zhang Shuai in the semi-finals. She said she was having fun playing again and was excited for the future.

“I think everyone should have high expectations,” Williams said. “You should always believe in yourself even if no one else does.”

With Serena returning this week in Indian Wells, California, Patrick Mouratoglou said he had high expectations for the three remaining Grand Slam tournaments this season. 

He said he sees the same determination in practice, but wouldn’t know if being a mother had changed her until he saw her competing. Venus already knows what to expect.

“I mean, the matches are definitely a good way to know where you are, but obviously she knows how to play,” the 37-year-old Venus said. “She’s going to bring that instinct on the court with her, so I don’t think she’s too worried about that.”

Tie Break Tens held its first tournament in the US after five events in Europe and Australia. The remainder of the field included Sorana Cirstea of Romania and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who retired last year.

Svitolina, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 4, continued her strong play to start the season after winning a tour-high five titles in 2017. The winner of two tournaments already this year, she won the last 7 points to break away from a 3-3 tie against Venus, then swept Vandeweghe 10-0.

“Of course, winning the first tournament of the year was a great start for me,” Svitolina said. “It’s always tough to transfer the work we do in the offseason.”

“This was a good sign that I’m moving the right way and I’m very, very happy that I played good tennis throughout the beginning of the year and just from here I can go only up.”

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