“I know I can go higher.” So said No. 7 seed Venus Williams after beating No. 8 seeded Vera Zvonareva in the final of the Sony Ericsson Championships today in Doha, Qatar. Her confidence and motivation is a great sign for Venus fans. Considering that she’s never won this title before, and has pulled out of the year end tournament five of the eight times she’s qualified for it with injury or illness, this really is a noteworthy accomplishment for the seven-time Slam champion.
Which is why I’m showing my cards early and proclaiming her to be my championship pick for the 2009 Australian Open. Remember, Venus has never won Down Under, either, and at 28 years old, she’s looking at her place in history and wanting to fill in the holes on her resume. And we all know that nothing can stop a Williams sister on a mission.
So now that Venus has made Vera cry, kissed the first lady of Qatar’s cheeks and hoisted a trophy overhead, it’s finally hit me that the season is really over. Maybe I was a little too hard on this tournament earlier in the week – despite the so-so venue and spotty crowds, we saw some hard-fought, stylistically-diverse matches played under the Doha lights. I’ve wondered (guiltily) if the recently hailed “depth” in women’s tennis has come more from a lack of true champions than an actual parity of talent. With last year’s year end champ and runner-up, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova, both out for most of the year, my suspicions should have been confirmed. But this tournament, among others, has proved me wrong. Yes, the Williams sisters (one or the other of them) still reign supreme in the post-Justine era, but players like Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and even Vera Zvonareva have all proved themselves worthy of being called the competition.
I am worried about the “It” girls, though. It’s hard to believe that both Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic have won a Major this year, given the way their seasons have crashed out (although Fernando Verdasco is a pretty good parting-gift, I admit). Having these two gals on the sidelines is bad for the game, and I’ll be distraught if Shriekapova doesn’t try to defend her title in January.
So let’s end the season with a sweet quote from singles Gold Medalist Elena Dementieva, who had this to say after losing her final match of the season to Zvonareva on Saturday:
“For the first time in my career I just feel sad that the season is over. Usually I feel so tired coming to the Championships. But this time I just wanted to play and play. I just didn’t want it to be the last match of the season.”
Don’t worry, Elena, the Australian Open is only 71 days away!