** Venus Williams Not Seeking To End Boycott Of Indian Wells Although Sister Serena Plans To Play For First Time Since 2001**
By Sandra Harwitt
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates _ Despite not being joined at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships by younger sister, Serena, who is out sick, Venus Williams was all smiles during the official women’s draw on Saturday afternoon.
Venus is the Dubai defending champion and a three-times winner at this event – let’s just say she likes Dubai very much. She’s assuming the defending champ role with a great deal of joy and little trepidation. Some might be nervous about the pressure of it all, but the 34-year-old Venus just sees it as another opportunity.
Venus has successfully defended 14 career titles in her 19 year career, most notable was her successful defense of the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles in 2001. The last time she aptly defended trophies was in 2010, winning back-to-back repeat titles in Acapulco, Mexico and Dubai.
“I’ve done it a lot of times,” Williams said. “No pressure really because it’s so great to get the title and no one can take it away from you – it’s always yours. For me, I’m just enjoying the moment of coming back.”
In all, Venus has won 46 career titles, which includes seven Grand Slam singles trinkets in her trophy cabinet.
By virtue of her recent win in Auckland, New Zealand, and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in five years at the Australian Open, Venus is now situated just one place out of the Top 10. Although there are no guarantees, when she leaves Dubai at the end of this week she could do so with a return to the Top 10 – the last time she enjoyed Top 10 status was the week of March 21, 2011 when she was ranked No. 9 in the world.
“Honestly, my goal was to hit the Top 16 and I don’t really count the points,” Williams said. “After Australia I was definitely surprised to be where I am now. So, of course, Top 10 is my next goal – or Top 8 – but I have to earn it. What I have to do is win matches.”
Venus has a first round bye and then will play the winner of the match between Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Karin Knapp of Italy in the second round.
FYI: Unlike sister, Serena, Venus said on Saturday she is not planning on playing at Indian Wells, an event neither sister’s played since 2001. The two have not returned since Venus withdrew injured from a scheduled all-sisters semifinal that year – Serena was heckled by the crowd during the final against Kim Clijsters and a fan in the crowd said racial slurs to their father, Richard. Venus, however, said she did talk to Serena about her decision to return to Indian Wells and supported her choice to play.