Venus Williams capped a stunning week of tennis in Dubai with a 6-3 6-0 demolition of Alizé Cornet in the final. For Venus, it was her first WTA title since Luxembourg in 2012, and first Premier level win since a successful defence of this same tournament in 2010. The win ensures her re-entry into the top-30 of the WTA rankings; she began the week at #44.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Venus' run in Dubai was that she didn't lose a set all week. Long 3-set tussles have become a feature of her matches in recent times; she's been unable to sustain a high level long enough to close out matches. She had no such problems in all five matches, routing each opponent save for Flavia Pennetta in the quarter-finals.
When Venus struggles, her game can often be unsightly: the grimaces, aborted ball tosses accompanied by a distressed "sorry", and a barrage of unforced errors as she tries to hit her way out of trouble. The beauty of her play this week was how well her game flowed; there was a mixture of power, elegance, and surety that has been missing for some time. She attacked with purpose in all five wins. Sometimes, her relentless aggression feels more stubborn than anything else, unwilling to adapt to a different game plan mid-match. But, she managed to pick her spots in Dubai. There was a purpose to her shot making that warned her opponents she was confident enough to defend her end of the court and control rallies at will.
Williams has always possessed a stellar net game, but rarely moves forward enough during matches. Her confidence propelled her forward with much more regularity this week. The touch and aggression at net was a sight to behold: her wingspan makes for such a striking visual, especially when executed so expertly. This has to be part of her game plan moving forward; she's got too good a volley to be so devoted to the baseline.
What does this win mean for Venus for the rest of the year and beyond? Although the tournament win was a big surprise, it didn't come out of nowhere. Her first tournament of the year, in Auckland, yielded a run to the final where she lost to Ana Ivanovic (Venus avenged that loss in the Dubai second round.) So, from four tournaments, Williams has 10 wins, one title, one final, and a host of wins against some really good players. All this after a deep run to the Tokyo semis at the end of last season. At this point, all signs point to a legitimate resurgence: she seems better able to manage her Sjogren's Syndrome, resulting in more practice time and better, more consistent results on court.
Consider that many, myself included, gave serious thought to whether Venus could ever win again. Now, her career is on a major upswing. If she's able to carry this form throughout 2014 and stay healthy, Venus might well find herself back inside the top-10 by year's end. Moreover, what kind of damage could she do to the Wimbledon draw playing like this? For now, it's time to savour a very sweet victory. The reality is, at almost 34, there's no telling how many more of these moments we'll be able to witness.
BTW, how amazing is that jacket Venus wore after the match? Her EleVen fashions have been on point lately.