Venus shows strength to defeat Maria Kirilenko

Venus shows strength to defeat Maria Kirilenko

MASON, Ohio - Reuters
Venus shows strength to defeat Maria Kirilenko

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams is showing good signs ahead of the US Open, which starts on Aug 27. AP photo

Venus Williams showed almost a year after her health scare that she has the stamina needed as she battled for two hours 23 minutes to beat Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 at the Cincinnati Open on Aug. 14.

Sister Serena, fresh from her Olympic gold medal success in London, ground out a 6-3, 6-4 win over determined Greek Eleni Daniilidou.

Venus served for the match twice in the second set, when up 5-4 and 6-5, but Kirilenko, the 12th seed, fought well to push the first-round contest into a third set.

The American was on top throughout the decider, though, showing no signs of the physical ailments which cut short her campaign in the U.S. Open last year.

The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion pulled out of last year’s U.S. Open citing an auto-immune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes fatigue and joint pain.

“I’m doing a lot better than this time last year,” Williams told reporters. “So much better. So much better than a couple months of ago as well. I also am learning to deal with everything a lot better.

“If I wake up and I don’t feel great, then I would panic and lose my match 2-1. I had a few 2-1’s this year, too, but I had to take those losses in order learn and get better. Now I realize that I just kind of hang in there if I’m not having the best day and still try to get the win.”

Williams had to skip the Australian Open in January and her comeback did not begin in earnest until she reached the quarter-finals at Miami in March.

Not that Williams is out of the woods yet. She continues to work with her medical team to reduce the impact of the disease.

“I’m trying different things all the time,” she said. “It’s a work in progress. My main goal is to be 100 percent, but it’s not like it goes away. It’s still in my body trying to fight against me, but I’m fighting it as well.”

Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova fought back in the second set, surviving match point, to beat China’s Zheng Jie 2-6, 7-6, 6-3 and will next face Italian Sara Errani.