Revivals Of 2014: Venus Williams
Published April 19, 2014 12:12
Despite the illnesses, injuries, painful defeats and drop down the rankings, Venus Williams' faith never once waivered.
And a few months ago in Dubai, everything came together for her as she cruised to the 45th title of her brilliant career without dropping a set. Victory ended a 17-month trophyless spell for the American and sent her skyrocketing up the rankings.
Dubai was Williams' first Premier title since 2010, but during this barren spell - caused in no small part by her well-publicized battle with Sjögren's syndrome - she never contemplated walking away from the sport that she loves.
"I love tennis. I'm still young. You can't do it forever, so while I can, I'm going to. When I can't, I'm not going to," Williams said. "You know, I'm not doing it because I love to be in the paper. No, I play tennis because I feel like I'm good at it. I know I'm good at it. I have to keep giving myself a chance and just keep going forward."
This positive mindset is all the more admirable in light of the seven-time Grand Slam champion's recent travails.
In 2011, Williams was force to sit out most of the season, laid low by a serious hip injury and then a viral illness - later diagnosed as the autoimmune disease, Sjögren's syndrome. On her return, progress was frustratingly slow, with each tentative step forward followed by a setback of some description.
Williams, though, continued to ignore the doubting Thomases, preferring instead to accentuate the positives - of which there have been plenty in 2014.
"This time last year, you know, I was definitely not anywhere in control," Williams said of her recent struggles on and off the court. "I was trying to figure out, you know, how I can be better, and sometimes that's tough because you're not doing anything wrong. You've always done things right your whole career and you're kind of facing something that you can't control.
"There is always a point in anyone's career where you have had so many hard knocks, so to speak, and you just keep getting up and believing that you have it in you. At the end of the day, that's what I believed, that I had it in me."
Following victory in Dubai and solid showings in Miami and Charleston - where she lost tight matches to Dominika Cibulkova and Eugenie Bouchard - the 33-year-old is back up to No.32 in the rankings and in contention for the game's major prizes. So have the goalposts now shifted?
"I mean, I have small goals. My goal, you know, from Doha and Dubai was to be seeded, you know, and got that. Then, you know, obviously my next goal is to be in the Top 20 and ultimately the Top 16. So just, you know, one at a time.
"To make those steps you do have to play well and win tournaments. And I want to win tournaments!"