at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Doha – Venus Williams, without a title in 16 months and beaten here as early as the second round, believes she still has what it takes to succeed at the highest level - and has the desire to prove it.
The seven times Grand Slam champion cut a defiant figure despite her depressingly persistent fitness issues and missing a match point on Wednesday against Petra Kvitova, the world number six from the Czech Republic.
Venus's place as a legend of the sport is assured and, since she is aged 33 and enduring intermittent effects of Sjogrens syndrome, an auto-immune deficiency, some people wonder why she still forces herself on.
“I play tennis because I feel like I'm good at it. I know I'm good at it, and I have to keep giving myself a chance and just keep going forward,” Venus responded.
With a world ranking down at 48 there is certainly room to do that. But Venus may still be more ambitious than some people realise, especially as she was good enough to have beaten a Kvitova who was playing not too far from her best.
Venus's movement and fitness was more than adequate to bring her big game into the equation for most of the match, and she still talks as good a contest as ever.
“I'm getting better really every tournament that I play,” she insisted, though her best sequence since winning Luxembourg in October 2012 is a final in Auckland last month in which she lost to Ana Ivanovic.
“I realise I have to pay my dues,” Venus added, meaning that she cannot expect immediately to re-acquire an ability to win tight matches after a lengthy period away from big competitive situations.
“You know, I have to keep getting in these positions. I haven't played as much as my opponents, so I have to stay out there and kind of get comfortable in those positions and just kind of go at it with the right mentality.
“I didn't necessarily go after it the way I should have (against Kvitova) but as long as I keep getting in the right positions, I'll convert,” she concluded.
A school of thought nevertheless suggests that Venus' main aim is to remain touring as long as her sister Serena Williams does. It is a notion given a gossipy credence by the fact that the world number one is unexpectedly joining Venus next week at the Dubai Open.
Serena had been reported as saying she could play neither here nor in Indian Wells next month because of the bad back sustained at the Australian Open more than three weeks ago.
That in turn created rumours that a reconciliation might be possible with the Indian Wells event, because both sisters have always previously said they refused to play there because of the hostile atmosphere they experienced in 2001.
Venus conspicuously declined to refute this possibility of reconciliation this week, and then articulated further reasons for hoping for better days ahead for herself.
“Well, I think this sky's the limit,” she said. “That's the thing. In life, you have to believe in yourself.
“You can't go out thinking someone else is going to believe in you and that they're going to do it for you. For me, I have to fight my own battles. There is going to be a lot of people who are supportive, but at the end of the day I have to get up and walk on my own.
“You know, I'm in a position that I didn't do anything wrong to be here,” she said referring to giving an interview as a loser. “It's just something that happens in life. I've got to make the best out of it.” – Sapa-AFP