Zheng makes Venus sweat for win

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 January, 2010, 12:00am

After a mixed doubles match today, it's a case of next stop Melbourne for Venus Williams, who last night finished her quota of singles matches at the Hong Kong Classic with two victories under her belt.

The Team Americas captain was pushed all the way at Victoria Park by Team Asia Pacific's Zheng Jie but walked away a 6-3, 6-2 winner - to add to her success against Caroline Wozniacki the night before - and said she was happy with the way her game was taking shape before the season's first grand slam.

'My serve was going well and I felt like I was playing aggressive,' said the world number six. 'I will now head to Melbourne to train and prepare and I will take the experiences from Hong Kong with me.'

Rain had shortened Williams' match against Wozniacki to just one set but the American said she wasn't too concerned about the lack of real match practice before the Australian Open.

'I don't like to have too many matches at the start of the season, I am in for the long haul,' she said. 'There is no secret to playing great tennis, you just have to pace yourself and this was fantastic for me and I know how to play tennis and I just have to do it in Melbourne.'

The 29-year-old said she was enjoying her tennis as much as she ever had - even after 16 years on the professional tour.' I know I have so much more to give,' Williams said. 'There's no time line [on retirement] if I am playing well.'

You have to feel a little for Zheng. She can match it for the most part with the world's top players, but she just can't seem to find a way to consistently beat them.

That was the case with her opening three-set loss at the Classic - against former world number one Maria Sharapova - and it was much the same last night against another former world number one in Williams.

And Williams was the first to admit the Chinese player had given her the runaround. 'We were out there for 90 minutes and every game was so close, she's tough,' was Williams' appraisal afterward. 'Obviously, I'm just happy to have the win. She is an extremely tough competitor and does so many things well so it felt good to get the win.'

Yesterday's afternoon match saw rising Japanese star Ayumi Morita show why she has risen to be her nation's No 1 player at just 19 years of age.

She gave Team Asia Pacific some hope of overcoming the more fancied Team Americas with a gutsy 7-5, 3-6, 10-4 victory over the vastly more experienced Gisela Dulko.

Williams' power, though, levelled things up for Team Americas, before Paradorn Srichaphan made it 2-1 to Team Asia Pacific with a 4-6, 6-2, 10-6 win over Michael Chang.

There was a further blow to the tournament after Thursday's rain with Team Russia's world number nine Vera Zvonareva last night pulling out of her scheduled Gold Group singles match against Team Europe's Victoria Azarenka - who then pulled out of a match set up with Hong Kong stand-in Zhang Ling, citing illness.

Zvonareva had ankle surgery in November and the joint flared up after her victory over Morita on Wednesday.

'I'm very sorry I can't play today, it's frustrating as I am looking for match practice, but hopefully it'll settle down so I can take my place in the doubles tomorrow,' said Zvonareva..

Play continues today with the Silver Group mixed doubles and the tournament deciding Gold Group clashes between Team Europe's Wozniacki and Team Russia's Sharapova. In the men's it's Stefan Edberg for the Europeans facing Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov, while the mixed doubles sees Edberg paired with Azarenka and - hopefully - Zvonareva teaming with Kafelnikov.