Hopman Cup coup as Venus commits to playing in Perth
Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will partner Taylor Dent in the US pair to defend the Hyundai Hopman Cup title next summer.
Williams, who last year beat Lindsay Davenport 4-6 7-6 9-7 in Wimbledon's longest women's final, will follow sister Serena, who won the Perth mixed teams event with James Blake in 2002-03.
Fittingly, she will be the 19th player to have held the world No. 1 ranking to play in the Hopman Cup, in the tournament's 19th year.
"That's a pretty good record for hallmark players," declared tournament director Paul McNamee from Germany yesterday.
An exciting Monday afternoon in Kaiserslautern watching the Socceroos beat Japan became even better when Williams' agent, Carlos Fleming, contacted McNamee to confirm that a proposal put to Venus during the French Open had paid off.
"Up to now she's usually spent Hopman Cup week in Hong Kong but she's never won the Australian Open and she wants to make some changes in her preparation," said a delighted McNamee.
"I did, of course, point out to her that her sister won in Melbourne in 2003 straight after playing in Perth."
When the older of the Williams sisters indicated her willingness to come to Perth for the first time, McNamee had little hesitation departing from the tournament tradition of inviting back the pair who won the previous year. Lisa Raymond partnered Dent to the title last January but a drawcard as big as multiple Wimbledon and US Open champion Williams could not be overlooked - particularly after last year's lacklustre field.
Williams has won Wimbledon three times and the US Open twice and was the gold medallist in the singles at the Sydney Olympics.
She has contested the final of all four grand slam tournaments at least once, with her sister denying her a full house of major championships with wins at the French Open in 2002 and the Australian Open in 2003.
She has won 33 WTA Tour titles, amassed more than $16 million in prize money and holds bragging rights to the fastest serve recorded in a women's event when she unleashed a 205kmh thunderbolt at Mary Pierce in Zurich in 1998.
Injury has hindered Williams' bid to reclaim the No. 1 ranking she last held in 2002. After a first-round loss in the Australian Open, she was out of action until May. She reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, losing in three sets to Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova.
"Venus has got her head down and she's working her way back. The hunger is still there and the fact she's making changes and coming to play in Perth indicates she's dinkum about having a crack at the Australian Open," said McNamee.
The Hopman Cup starts December 29.
Go Venus! Will be great to see her here in Perth! I'll probably buy a season ticket now so i can go see her everyday!