Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open

Venus Williams keeps mum on Serena at Australian Open after getting back to business in Hong Kong

The 37-year-old pushes WTA Finals in Singapore to the back of her mind as she looks to break 2017 title duck at Victoria Park

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 9:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 9:55am

Keep the questions to the tennis, the gathered media was urged before Venus Williams’ post-match press conference.

The Victoria Park media tent hardly seemed the time or place to bring up the fatal car crash she was involved in earlier this summer. But of course she was always going to be asked about Serena.

Craig Tiley, director of the Australian Open, said earlier on Tuesday the younger Williams sister would be back to defend her title in Melbourne despite having only given birth to her first daughter in September.

But Venus wasn’t giving away any clues.

“Oh, you’d have to ask her,” she said with a laugh. “Just ask Serena.”

Venus was more forthcoming about her return to the court after a month off following the US Open where she reached the semi-finals.

The 37-year-old shook off the ring rust with a 6-2, 6-2 opening victory at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open, but she had a game opponent in Japan’s Risa Ozaki.

“Four weeks goes by pretty fast – the first match is never perfect,” she said. “I played her in the first round last year, but I didn’t remember much about the style of her game.

“She’s a great retriever and she can play some offence when wants to. It was a hard-fought match despite the score.

“You have to be very focused out there. She fought, we had some deuce games. Her serve was great. It was definitely due to her talent as well. I have to give her credit for that.

“But it was a good way to start. I hit a lot of balls and hopefully played my way into this tournament.”

Venus is enjoying a late career renaissance, having qualified for her first WTA Finals in eight years after reaching the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

The second seed in Hong Kong, she is undoubtedly the star attraction of this tournament. The crowd on centre court gave her a warm reception on to and off the court.

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“It’s awesome, very awesome,” Venus said of the fans’ support. “You can see that they wanted a great match.

“They want to see her do well, they want to see the points being competed very well. It’s nice to be in front of a crowd that appreciates the game.”

Venus will make her first appearance at the Finals in Singapore later this month, nine years after winning the tournament when it was previously hosted in Doha.

But any excitement is being tempered with the seven-time grand slam singles champion keeping her eyes on the prize in Hong Kong.

While she amassed the fifth most points on tour this year she has yet to claim a title in 2017, and Hong Kong presents a golden late opportunity.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s not here yet,” the world number five said of Singapore. “This is definitely firmly first in my head, this tournament.

“There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of depth in this draw. I’m going to have to work my way through this and then the Finals are next.”