Venus Williams out for first title defence in six years

Venus Williams arrives at Auckland international airport. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Venus Williams arrives at Auckland international airport. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Venus Williams might create a new slice of history in New Zealand over the coming week.

The American arrived late last night into Auckland and will be top seed at this year's ASB Classic.

In the twilight of her career she has developed something of a love affair with the Queen city, and will be aiming for her first successful WTA title defence in almost six years.

The last time Williams won a title as defending champion was in 2010, when she made it two from two in Acapulco.

"It's good to be back," said Williams as she was whisked through the airport arrivals area to a waiting car. "I love being here. It's been a great tradition for me over the last few years so all the more reason to keep it going."

Williams was voted the WTA's comeback player of the year last season, after climbing back into the top 10 for the first time since 2011.

She was particularly impressive on hardcourt in 2015, with a 34-9 win loss record that was only bettered by three other players on tour, and added three more singles titles to her trophy cabinet.

The 35-year-old has already been on court in 2016, playing an exhibition in Thailand alongside Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani and Agnieszka Radwanska which finished last Friday, and is raring to get back out on the Stanley Street centrecourt.

"I can't wait to play my first match [here] - it will be pretty soon, said Williams. "You try your best in your first matches [of the season], try to figure it out."

Williams has been an intimidating presence in Auckland - winning nine of her 10 matches - but insists she still takes it one game at a time, even after all these years.

"There's no magic, said Williams. "You get out there and fight and hopefully your ball goes in more than your opponent. What else can you try?"

And as she has done during each of her last two visits, Williams also promised she is doing all she can to get her famous sibling to New Zealand.

"I keep telling Serena that Auckland wants to see her but she is the little sister, she's gotta do what she has wants to do," laughed Williams. "But I think she wants to come for sure."

The ASB Classic starts on Monday, will the second round of qualifying to continue on Sunday.

- Herald on Sunday

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