Venus trumps Ivanovic in Dubai
Dubai - Despite her 33 years, low ranking, and repeated health problems, Venus Williams delivered a performance of such controlled power that it not only carried her to the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open but suggested she might yet become a force again at the highest level.
The seven times former Grand Slam winner from the United States outplayed Ana Ivanovic, the former world number one from Serbia, by 6-2, 6-1, as she found her best form for many months.
Venus not only launched powerful drives and occasional drive volleys behind some reassuringly consistent serving, she responded with her best tennis on important points which made the match look more one-sided than it was.
There were 19 clean winners and five aces in a difficult breeze, and a relatively low unforced error count. It was hard to believe she is still ranked outside the world's top 40.
It followed a similarly punishing performance on Tuesday, when Venus beat Elena Vesnina, a Russian she had never previously beaten, and raised hopes that adequate physical recovery to back up good wins might no longer be quite such a problem.
"It's been a long road and I am still making my way back," said Venus. "I can't take anything for granted, but yes, I am thrilled.
"I had a tough match (with Ivanovic) earlier in the year and this wasn't easy because we have similar games - she's really powerful and dangerous, " she added, referring to her defeat in the final at Auckland last month.
"I think I am trying to play more consistently and keep the errors down, which always helps my body."
Venus even felt confident enough about her stamina levels to take on a doubles match later in the day with her sister, Serena, the world number one, who plays her second match on Thursday.
Curiously the Williams sisters, making a rare outing together outside a Grand Slam tournament, were due to play the opponents which both had played in their first round singles - Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, another Russian.
Venus will not now have to play as expected the second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the Pole who won the title here two years ago, but Flavia Pennetta, the world number 22 from Italy who has recovered well from a long-lasting wrist injury.
However her 6-4, 6-1 victory owed something to the increasingly odd passivity of Radwanska, who led 4-1 in the first set and unaccountably lost 11 of the next 12 games.
"Yesterday was exactly one year since my comeback," said Pennetta, who might have added that it is six years since she last beat Radwanska.
"I played really bad tennis when I came back - and that was really tough," Pennetta smiled. "But I've worked hard and everything has changed."
Another threat in this half of the draw may well be Caroline Wozniacki, the former world number one from Denmark who is also a former champion here.
Wozniacki won 6-4, 6-4 on an outside court against Annika Beck, an in-form German qualifier, which followed her good recovery yesterday against Sabine Lisicki, the Wimbledon finalist.
Results on third day Wednesday of the WTA Dubai Open (x denotes seeding):
Sorana Cirstea (ROM) bt Sara Errani (ITA x4) 6-2, 5-7, 6-1
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x2) 6-4, 6-1
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x8) bt Annika Beck (GER) 6-4, 6-4
Venus Williams (USA) bt Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 6-2, 6-1
Jelena Jankovic (SRB x5) bt Lucie Safarova (CZE) 7-5, 6-4
Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-3, 6-4