Venus rising — again. Muguruza improving again, Czechs struggling



OCTOBER 4, 2015 – Venus Williams was extremely happy in winning Wuhan. She does not smile much on court – essentially never – but off the court during a great day, she can be happy and smile very wide, beaming.

As she has said, the 35-year-old has had a difficult year, going down to the other Americans: Serena Williams (twice), Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. She believed that her strokes were right there. She was so close and pretty consistent. But she is not as fast as she once was, and while her forehand has been more stronger when she first came on the tour in the late 1990s, she can hit it too short. However, her backhand is legendary and she is terrific at the net. She won two marathons over Joanne Konda and Roberta Vinci to reach the final in Wuhan and even though her legs were sore, she still managed to win it, as Garbiñe Muguruza could barely move and she retired, due to injury. Venus out fought all of them, the veterans and young starts.

Now it sounds like she will continue and play next year and possibly into 2017. The eight-time Grand Slam champion still wants a major title. She hasn’t been able to do so since 2008 and it will get harder and harder with her aging body, but you have to give her at least a long shot. Williams is currently ranked No. 11 and could reach the WTA Finals Singapore, and in order to do so, she will have to win at least a few matches. She begins against Ana Ivanovic, which will be very difficult to say the least, even though Ana has been so-so lately. Then Venus could play Stephens. Revenge match.

Muguruza finally came alive in Wuhan, hitting both strokes, moving quickly inside the court, and nailing her forehands and backhands down the line. After suffering at the tournaments after she reached the Wimbledon final, the Spaniard began to think, rather than just banging away on court and she looked tremendous overall. For the first time, the world now knows who she is. In Wuhan, where she beat Angie Kerber and Caro Wozniacki, she looked confident again. She is now ranked No. 5 and assuming that she reaches Singapore, she will have a legitimate shot to win it.

Next year in 2016? She is now working with her coach Sam Sumyk, who knows the players inside and out. If she stays with him and continues to listen, she will have a real chance to win a major next season.

Three of the top Czechs are hurting and/or struggling. Petra Kvitova is still a little bit ill due to her mono and lost early in Wuhan and Beijing. Lucie Safarova hasn’t played since the US Open because she is hurt and had to go to a hospital due to a bacteria infection. Katarina Pliskova has lost early at the tournaments since Stanford, when she reached the final in early August. All of them have to be healthy in the Fed Cup fnal in Prague, November 14-15 against the Russians. For the Czechs to prevail, they’ve got to get healthy again.

There are a number of other players in Beijing, who will have a legitimate chance to get in the WTA Finals. No. 2 Simona Halep retired on Sunday, but she has already qualified. No. 3 Maria Sharapova isn’t playing until Singapore because she is hurt, too. Kvitova has qualified, and Safarova is very close, even though she is not playing. Flavia Pennetta has qualified because she won the US Open and did win a match on Sunday in Beijing.

Kerber has been consistent for the most part since she turned it around in April and will likely get in. Carla Suarez Navarro can, too, but she hasn’t won a bunch of matches since the clay season. Aga Radwanska seems to have been better mentally since Roland Garros, so she has a fine shot. Wozniacki says that she is hurt all the time … so it will be surprising if she gets in.

It’s Belinda Bencic who will really push in Beijing, as she reached the final of Tokyo. She beat Muguruza in Tokyo in straight sets in the third round and those two could face off each other again in the third round in China. If Bencic snares it, the 18-year-old will be flying high.

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