Maria started her year with an impressive 6-3 6-4 win over world number eight Elena Dementieva on Friday in the semi-finals of the Champions' Challenge, a four-player exhibition-tournament in Hong Kong.
In the final on Saturday, Maria shocked Venus Williams by taking a 5-1 lead in the first set. But Williams, playing her first event since Wimbledon 2003, found her rhythm and won six games in a row en route to a 7-5 6-3 victory.
Williams said: "Maria played so well and I had to find some answers out there, but more than anything I was trying to enjoy playing. It's been too long, too long... it's great to be back."
Like the exhibition at Ciney in December, these are highly impressive results for Maria. They suggest that she could be a factor in the second week of the Australian Open, and that she could one day be world number one.
Dr. Andrew Broad