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Venus: ‘I can look back with no regrets’

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TENNIS WIMBLEDON 2014 – She won a match Wednesday, beat a woman, Kurumi Nara, even lower in the rankings than she is. Venus Williams kept herself in Wimbledon and kept the doubters at a distance, neither of which is a small task. Art Spander
Williams was 34 a few days ago. That’s ancient in tennis. Her 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory in a match that began just after 11:30 a.m. put her into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2013 Australian Open, a span of six events.

 

She still can bring it, but probably against women who never brought it.

These are strange times for Venus, who sits at No. 31 in the WTA standings — sister Serena is first — and is beset by an autoimmune disorder, Sjogren’s syndrome, that causes fatigue.

She keeps playing competitively, which is both admirable and perplexing. Watching her get bumped out of the Australian Open in the first round or the French Open in the second becomes unsettling.

We remember the way it was and cringe at the way it is.

Not that Venus or any other athlete is required to please us, if she can please herself.

Chris Evert, as the years grew and her placement in the rankings declined, asked rhetorically what was wrong with just reaching the semifinals or the quarters. All Evert knew was tennis. All Venus knows is tennis.

A week ago, the concern in sports was Lucy Li. Some insisted the 11-year-old from Northern California was too young to play in the U.S. Women’s Open golf championship. Now we worry about Venus Williams being too old to play tennis.

Venus called her victory “a step in the right direction,” although her game, a victim of time and Sjogren’s, has been going in the wrong direction.

Twenty years she’s been at it, reaching the summit, winning the titles. A long time, a far distance, reasons to remember the past more than to consider the future.

It was a cool evening in Oakland, almost 20 years ago, Halloween night 1994, when a 14-year-old from Compton with beads in her hair faced pros from the WTA in her debut. Venus beat Shaun Stafford, who predicted, “She’s going to be great for women’s tennis.” That Williams lost the next match to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario didn’t matter a bit.

So many possibilities. So much excitement. Now, so many questions, most dismissed by Venus, who at times acts and talks as if nothing has changed from the golden era of victories at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

Asked if she even considered the match against Nara could be her last singles ever at Wimbledon, Williams was perturbed. “No,” she said, “I definitely don’t think that way. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

An odd phrase, in a way, when she will not agree to a summing up of her career.

Derek Jeter can take his victory lap. Venus Williams is taking her time, lingering as long as possible in the only world she has known since a teenager.

It’s basically one Williams in the spotlight, Serena, who is 32 but the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Venus is out there on the fringe, being questioned on what it’s like when she and Serena both are in the second week of major championship, as once they were.

“I think we motivate each other,” said Venus. “We want to see each other win. I guess I haven’t held up my end of the bargain. I tried. I just haven’t had the luck I wanted.”

Without the Sjogren’s, for which she was diagnosed in 2011, she’s a better player. However, tennis is a sport of the young, and healthy or not, a 34-year-old is at a disadvantage. The kid across the net has the reflexes you used to have. Perception is no substitute for reaction.

“Wisdom has served me well,” countered Venus when reminded of her age. “I’ve worn my sunscreen, so I haven’t aged terribly. My knees are very tight, not saggy. And the crow’s feet have been kept at bay. So I’ll give myself an A-plus.”

She looks fine. It’s her tennis that’s saggy, not the knees. Still, she’s not prepared to surrender to any opponent, including Father Time.

“I don’t like watching it on TV,” she said when asked what keeps her going. “I want to be out there. I’m not about the easy thing. Life is a challenge. For me, when I leave tennis, I want it to be on my own terms.

“I want to look back with no regrets. So far in my career I can do that. Everyone messes up. Everyone chokes. Everyone gets tight. Everyone loses matches they should have won. But as long as you walked out there and gave it your all, you can look back with no regrets.”
Yes, wisdom has served her well. Very well.

artspander.com

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Kim Clijsters Handed Wildcards For Top American Tournaments

The four-time Grand Slam champion says she is ‘excited’ to be returning to the Tour.

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Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters isn’t giving up on her comeback to tennis anytime soon after confirming that she will play at the Miami Open later this month.

 

The Belgian has been awarded with a wildcard to play at the prestigious WTA 1000 event which is held at the Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the first tournament Clijsters has played since the US Open last year and the first time she has played in Miami since 2012. She is a two-time winner in Miami after triumphing in 2005 when she was unseeded in the draw, as well as 2010.

“The Miami Open was always a favorite stop on tour for me,” said Clijsters. “I have great memories and also had great results there. I’m excited to be coming back to Miami.”

Clijsters is currently in the process of her second comeback to the Tour. She first retired from the sport in May 2007 before returning two years later. She would continue playing for another five years before calling it quits at the 2012 US Open following a lengthy battle with injuries. Last year she played in a total of three tournaments but lost her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza in Dubai, Johanna Konta in Monterrey and Ekaterina Alexandrova at the US Open.

James Blake, who is the tournament director of the Miami Open, has hailed the return of Clijsters to the tournament. Paying tribute to her both on and off the court.

“We are very excited to have Kim returning to Miami,” he said. “She is a tremendous player and an even better person. Plus, it’s not often you get the opportunity to see someone who has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame compete at an event of this level.”

After Miami, Clijsters will kick-off her clay court campaign in the country after receiving a pass to play at the Charleston Open which takes place the week after Miami. It will be the first time in her career she has played at the event which has been part of the women’s Tour for more than 30 years.

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Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles so far in her career with the most recent occurring back in 2011 at the Australian Open. She has spent a total of 20 weeks as world No.1 which is a longer period than Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Jankovic.

The Miami Open will get underway on March 22nd.

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‘Very Happy’ Madison Keys Stuns Bencic In First Match Since September At Qatar Open

The world No.19 speaks out about her comeback win after recovering from COVID-19.

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Madison Keys (@usopen on Twitter)

Former US Open finalist Madison Keys has marked her return to the WTA Tour with a straight sets triumph over Belinda Bencic in the first round of the Qatar Open.

 

Keys, who last played at the French Open prior to this week, looked to be in top form as she dismissed the sixth seed 6-1, 6-4, in just over an hour. The American hit 24 winners against 13 unforced errors as she won 83% of her first service points. She was only broken once in the match which was during the closing stages of the opening set.

“It’s amazing to be back. I’m smiling under my mask,” Keys said during her on-court interview. “Disappointed that I couldn’t go to Australia, but very happy to have the first match of my season like this.”

The 26-year-old is looking to get back on track after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this year which ruled her out of the Australian Open. Keys endured a lacklustre 2020 season where she only played five tournaments due to the pandemic and registered eight wins on the Tour.

“I just had super, super mild symptoms, so I was really lucky and got back on the court as soon as I was over it.” She explained.

This week the world No.19 is seeking her first title of any sort since the 2019 Cincinnati Open and the sixth in her career. Next up for the American will be a clash against Maria Sakkari who kicked off her campaign in Doha on Monday with a clinical 6-0, 6-3, win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.

Unlike other tournaments, Keys has the luxury of playing in front of fans under strict COVID-19 regulations. Visitors are required to use a contact tracing app, undergo temperature checks and wear masks at all times. The number of spectators has been capped at 20% of its normal capacity.

“To come out and play in front of fans again is so amazing. We (the players) really appreciate everyone who comes out and cheers us. I’m super happy to see them back,” said Keys.
“It’s going to be a really tough match (against Sakkari). She got me the last time we played. I’m going to have to look at that match to see what she did better than what I did and hope I do a better job next time,” she later added.

In other matches, Germany’s Laura Siegemund set up a meeting with Victoria Azarenka after battling past Elena Rybakina 7-6(7), 7-6(5). Also through to the next round is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, One Jabeur and Jessica Pegula who won their matches in straight sets.

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Former Tennis Star Reveals 2016 Retirement Was Linked To 18-Month Ban

The former world No.66 says she was suspended from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player following one of her matches.

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Ekaterina Bychkova (image via Wikicommons)

A top 100 player who stunned Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round of the 2005 US Open when she was the defending champion has made a shock revelation about the reason why she retired from the sport.

 

Ekaterina Bychkova, who peaked at a ranking high of 66th in her career, was a familiar face on the women’s Tour that played in 15 Grand Slam main draws between 2005-2011. During her career, she won 10 ITF singles titles and five in the doubles. She hung up her racket in 2016 after playing one qualifying match in St Petersburg but the decision to retire wasn’t entirely her choice.

In a recent interview Bychkova revealed for the first time she was slammed with a 18-month suspension from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player. The incident took place following her match against Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova at an ITF $100,000 event in Nanjing, China.

“In the third set Kuchova began to suffer from convulsions (cramps). But according to the rules, you cannot call a doctor for convulsions and you cannot lie on the court for five minutes. However, she lay on the court for several minutes, then the supervisor came, who said that it was not a seizure, which means that a break was needed. He clearly sympathized with her,” she said during an interview with website Bookmaker Ratings.
“Kuchova returned to the match and immediately began to serve powerfully, kick the ball and move well. She was released psychologically, but on the contrary, I was shackled.”

A furious Bychkova ended up losing the first round match 7-5, 6-7(1), 3-6, to Kucova who is currently ranked 149th in the world. Although the incident between the two players didn’t take place on the court. It occurred later on that day when they crossed paths again.

“I was asked to take a walk for 20-30 minutes. Suddenly this beauty floats past me, cheerful. I broke down and started a fight,” she said.
“Two days later, the supervisor announced to me that our fight was on camera. It was a hostel on the court grounds, not an official hotel, and in fact the fight did not take place on the territory of the tournament.”

Reflecting on her actions, which was caught on CCTV, the Russian says they were in no way justifiable and she regrets how she reacted. Not only did she end up with a 18-month ban from the sport, she was also fined $3,150.

At the time Bychkova said she had the option to appeal the decision but opted not to do so because she didn’t want to go through the process of hiring lawyers and travelling to London for an ITF hearing. Claiming that the fight didn’t actually occur on the tournament site but at a hostel located on the surrounding grounds. She also said her decision to not to appeal was because she was ‘tired of tennis.’

Now at the age of 35 she has decided to give playing professional tennis another go. This week she played her first match in five years at an ITF event in Moscow where she lost in the first round to world No.611 Anastasia Tikhonova.

There has been no public comment from Kucova regarding Bychkova’s account of what happened in China.

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