May 15, 2010

Back on Top

Well, at least close to the top.

This week in Madrid Venus Williams secured her position as the #2 player in women's tennis when she beat Francesca Schiavone in the third round of the Mutua Madrileña Open, a spot she last held more than seven years ago. And like a true champion, she did not rest on her laurels, but instead proceeded to power through tough opponents like Charleston winner Sam Stosur and Shahar Peer, who'd beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova in her opening match.

Now I know I haven't always been the biggest Williams supporter, but even I have to admit I've been wondering what took her so long to come back. You might remember she began the year with a quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne and followed that up with an amazing fifteen match, two-title win streak that ended in the Miami finals. She may not play quite as many tournaments as the other pros, but those she does enter, she really shows up for -- Venus hasn't lost before the round of eight since last October.

Tomorrow, Williams plays in her seventieth career final -- she's already won forty-three of them, and she has to like her chances against world #24 Aravane Rezai. But the Frenchwoman should not be overlooked -- the two have actually split their previous meetings, both on clay and both several years ago. Rezai also made good after upsetting Justine Henin in the first round of Madrid and put together a solid victory over Jelena Jankovic to make the semis. The champion in Bali last year knows how to put together more than a few wins in a row.

Still Venus the more experienced, considerably more consistent player, should be able to make it through. And if she does, we might start talking about her as a threat at another Major which just happens to be around the corner.

Incidentally, Rafael Nadal's win over Nicolas Almagro this morning helped him reclaim the #2 ranking on the men's side too. He hasn't been gone quite as long as Venus was, but when he plays in the final tomorrow, he'll have another goal in mind -- a title in Rome, amazingly a clay-court tourney he has never won, would give him a record eighteen Masters 1000 titles, surpassing Andre Agassi who won his seventeenth at Cincinnati in 2004.

And if he makes it, wouldn't that make for an interesting French Open?

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