"Venus accomplishes mission" - an article in a Hong Kong newspaper
For Venus fans.
Sunday Morning Post (Hong Kong) January 11, 2004
Watsons Water Champions Challenge
‘For me, this is the best environment available playing before a Grand Slam’
Venus accomplishes mission
By Unus Alladin
With a smile and a wave to the crowd, Venus Williams launched her 2004 season on the comeback trail in style as she dismantled the raw power of Russian bombshell, Maria Sharapova, 7-5, 6-3 to win the women’s singles at the Watsons Water Champions Challenge yesterday.
Williams was playing in her first tournament in six months after an injury-ravaged season that began in last summer’s Wimbledon final against her sister, Serena.
But the former world number one announced her return with another pulsating performance in front of a packed gallery at Victoria park to clinch her second Hong Kong title after winning in 1999.
“Maria [Sharapova] played so well and I had to find some answers out there, but more than anything I was trying to enjoy playing. That what made me happy in Hong Kong – to play well,” said world number 11 Williams after the 72-minute contest. “It’s been too long, too long,” said the American on her return from injury. “But it’s great to be back.” Williams said: “It’s nice to play these matches and not have any pain or issues. It’s just a month ago since I started practicing seriously. Being able to practice, I can’t really have the ghost of the past pull me back.”
For 32-ranked Sharapova, her time will come sooner than later. The Russian raw power – although awesome for a teenager – needs to be refined. But there was enough to suggest that a place in the world’s top 20 beckons for the 16-year-old from Nyagan.
Still, there was little Sharapova could do against one of the world’s greatest players. Venus said she believes she has gone as far as she could go coming from a long layoff and was happy to have played at the level she was playing in winning yesterday.
“As far as ability and knowing I can do it, that’s one thing, but getting out there and being consistent and playing the important points when the pressure is on and to be able to pull it out. I definitely surpassed [the level of] what I was going to be. I am just keep building on it,” said the 23-year-old American.
The four-times Grand Slam champion also received a timely boost before the Australian Open after being given preferential seeding after the withdrawal of her sister Serena due to injury.
Williams has been promoted to third seed ahead of former champions Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport following a recommendation by the WTA.
“I didn’t speak to her [Serena] directly about it. But I know she needs more time that’s all. There’s something missing. Serena was supposed to be here [in Hong Kong]. She probably would have been ion this event and I was talking to mum. Isn’t there something missing? It just doesn’t seem right. It’s not the same. We have this dynamics,” she said of her close affinity with her sister.
“I’d love to come back [to Hong Kong]. This is perfect for me. I was preferring not to play a week before the Australian Open. I prefer to be here to prepare in a really good environment. For me, this is the best environment available playing before a Grand Slam. I don’t want to play in an intense tournament a week before the Australian. I don’t think that is the best thing for me to prepare,” said Williams.
The Russian began the match with all guns blazing in the first set, but Williams’ experience told in the end as she eventually swept aside the Russian to stay on track for a real crack at the Australian Open.
Sharapova displayed steely determination in the early part of the game when she raced to a 5-1 lead. But then it all began to go wrong for Sharapova whose game imploded as Williams picked up the pace. From 5-1 down, the American grew in confidence, capitalising on Sharapova’s lack of killer instinct, while reeling off the next six games to make a miraculous recovery.
Apart from a hiccup at the beginning of the second set when she twice double faulted to allow Sharapova to break back in the second game, it was Sharapova who battled to stay alive before eventually succumbing to the power and finesse of the American.
Sharapova was not overly disappointed with her loss. She said: “You know it’s never over until it’s over. Venus was too good and it’s the beginning of the year and hopefully I will take this year through to a very good year.
“I think I wasn’t playing my best tennis to get to 5-1. I thought she must have given me an opportunity for me to get there. I got some unbelievable balls to get to 5-1, and I played some very good shots close to the line. After 5-1, I made a sloppy error and from that point, I went a bit down and she came out and she began hitting my serve and playing really well.
“I’m not disappointed at all. Look, I came out I was playing a former number one and a great champion. In my mind, I thought I could beat her,” said the Russian.
YVera Brezhneva of Nu Virgos * ВИА-Гра
Vera – You are my #1!! Я тебя так благодарна!!
* Maша Sharapova * Nicole V * Venus * Лена Dementieva * K-Lina Šprem *