Age and Sjogren’s Syndrome have conspired to make Venus Williams less consistent than she once was. But when she’s on, as she was at this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, she can still remind everybody why she’s one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. She ran through the field at the Premier event, never dropping a set in recording her 45th career victory. It was also her 3rd Dubai title. She briefly fell behind a break at 1-2 in the first set. From then on, it was vintage Venus, winning 11 of the next 12 games to take out Alize Cornet, 6-3 6-0. A measure of revenge was exacted by Venus as Alize had shocked the tennis world by beating Serena Williams in straight sets in the semifinals, robbing the event of a highly anticipated Serena versus Venus final. I felt badly for the emotional Cornet. She played the match of her life in defeating Serena 6-4 6-4 in the semis. But in the final, she spent the changeover after the 7th game of the first set in tears as her coach tried to calm and console her. Unfortunately, when Venus plays like she did in the Dubai final, there really is little Alize can do to stop her.
While Venus added to her Hall of Fame career statistics in Dubai, on Sunday 22-year old Kurumi Nara took the first step to building a winning resumé of her own. The world’s top women’s Japanese player in singles won her first WTA title by defeating Klara Zakopalova 6-1 4-6 6-1 in the final of the inaugural Rio Open. Nara was the far more aggressive player, controlling most of the rallies and stepping in on short balls. But she also showed great touch and court awareness. The first point of the final game was proof positive of her skills as Zakopalova hit a beautiful drop shot. It didn’t even look like Kurumi could reach the ball…but not only did she, she sliced under the ball to thread it through a tiny opening to the far cross court. It was an exquisite demonstration of skill. That said, as she moves to play better opponents, Kurumi will need to cut down on errors. She’s very aggressive, which can be good and bad. She hits winners, but makes errors too. There were 14 breaks of serve in the match, with 5 against Nara. That will need to improve moving forward. However, today is for celebrating a young talent achieving their first WTA title.