Steely Venus determined to rise again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am

Olympic glory tops 2008 agenda

You have to wonder what will happen to the world of fashion once Venus Williams turns her hobby into a full-time profession. A good guess is it won't know what hit it.

Williams showed once again at the JB Group Classic yesterday what has made her one of the greats of the game - brushing aside the challenge of China's Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-2 in just 70 minutes. The American was brutal when she wanted to be, allowing nothing to stop her from taking care of business.

It was much the same a few hours before when Williams faced the media and handled any attempts to drag her into the game's recent scandals with all the aplomb of a boardroom battle-hardened CEO.

Was she worried about rumours swirling around the game?

'No,' she said. 'I don't think it's a big thing for tennis to be honest. I think we're OK.' And that was that.

Controversy? What Controversy?

More pressing on the 27-year-old's mind was the state of her own game - and the chance to again represent her country at the Olympics, where she hopes to play singles, as well as doubles with sister Serena.

Reflecting on the Sydney Games, where she won gold in both events, Williams said it was the highlight of her life.

'It was too exciting actually,' she said. 'Definitely the highlight of my career and beyond my dreams. Serena and I are already preparing to try to take the doubles, we are going to start playing a lot more together. We want to go for it.'

Williams revealed she had taken time off to finish her degree in fashion design and to launch her own fashion label. And while there would be time to pursue this passion full-time in the future, her mind was still well and truly focused on the game.

'I'm just trying to achieve my dreams both on and off the court,' she said. 'But tennis is very much at the forefront. I wake up every morning and think about my practice.

'I'm feeling pretty fit and I'm feeling pretty confident. I definitely want to return to number one. I'm a good 50 spots closer than at the beginning of last year.

'But last year was challenging. I had a lot of great times and played a lot of good tennis but also I had a lot of injuries I had to work through. I'd like to think I have built my character to put me in a better position.'

She is using the Hong Kong event as her only tune-up before the Australian Open and believes that, after the time she spent on the sidelines last year, she has the hunger to succeed Down Under.

'You know I love playing and I don't take it for granted. I love hitting the ball. It is definitely hard work and sometimes you wish you didn't have to keep running from side to side but it pays off. The end result is great.'

Last night's late match proved to be the highlight of the tournament so far, Ana Ivanovic and Elena Dementieva trading blows before Dementieva won 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

Meanwhile, world number nine Daniela Hantuchova pulled out of last night's doubles event complaining of abdominal pains and will decide this morning whether to continue in the singles. She is drawn to play Caroline Wozniacki in today's Silver Group semi-finals.