The last few years have been very unkind to Venus Williams. We’ve watched as one of the all-time greats waged a very public battle against an auto-immune disease (Sjogren’s Syndrome) that threatened to end her trailblazing career. Faced with adversity, the elder Williams has shown remarkable fortitude in trying to get her career back on track.
Credit to Venus that she doesn’t want our sympathy. Although she struggles to stay healthy for prolonged periods, she seems genuinely happy to just be able to take the court and compete. Those who think she’s over the hill and should retire do her a great injustice. While she may never win another major, her successes going forward (however minor) should be celebrated as triumphs of her will and not mere snapshots of her past glory. Moreover, she’s relished her new role as exemplar of triumph over adversity.
So, what can we expect from Venus in 2014?
She’s currently playing in Auckland and managed a strong straight sets win in her opening match against Andrea Hlavackova. Tokyo showed she’s able to muster elite tennis provided she can “feel well” for long enough. Her march toward the semi-finals featured some vintage tennis but was eventually undone by a lack of match play and too many errors. Still, she was able to push an in-form Petra Kvitova to the brink in the three sets.
Is it likely that Venus will make her way back to the top-10? Win another major? Play a full schedule? Reach the second week of Slams? Probably not. She believes she can still win tournaments, but it’s not the only thing driving her at this point. Many athletes speak of a love for their sport, but Venus embodies it. It’s why her lows are so painful to watch.
I think V can win a tournament in 2014. Where it might come is anyone’s guess. I’d also like to see her make another deep run at a Slam. Perhaps she will be healthy enough come Wimbledon to find her groove. Grass is the most likely surface for her to make it happen. After such a lengthy period of misfortune, the tennis gods owe her something special in 2014.
*For those unfamiliar with the incident, my title refers to certain choice words Irina Spirlea had for Venus at the 1997 U.S. Open. Well, Irina, turns out she kinda is!