With two Grand Slam finals and a runner-up finish at the year-end championships in Singapore in 2017, Venus Williams defiantly fought against the advances of age to post one of her best seasons in years.
However, her follow-up campaign was a complete turnaround. Can she rebound in 2019?
Expectations were high going into this year, due in no small part to the void created by the absence of her sister, Serena Williams. After the 2017 Australian Open, which was won by Serena and would be her last tournament of the season, every tournament was seemingly up for grabs. The rest of that year’s Grand Slams were won by Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and Sloane Stephens. A resurgent Venus Williams kept pace with—and often surpassed—the masses. She reached her first Grand Slam final in nearly a decade in Melbourne and added another championship-round appearance at Wimbledon. In her last tournament of the season, she made her third significant final at the WTA Finals in Singapore, falling to Caroline Wozniacki.
Kicking off this year in Australia, Williams suffered opening-match losses to Angelique Kerber and Belinda Bencic in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively. On paper, both of those matches were considered upsets, but the rankings disparity overshadowed what actually was happening in regard to the level of play on display by Kerber and Bencic at the time. Both players started off the year strong at the Hopman Cup as they were working toward their own comebacks.
Participating in the opening round of the Fed Cup against the Netherlands, Williams won her two singles rubbers at the tie, which saw the official return of Serena to action. Venus then played deep into her next two events in Indian Wells and Miami. In both of those events, though, she fell again to much lower-ranked players, one of which—Danielle Collins—was 93 in the world when she defeated Williams in the Miami quarterfinals.
After that showing in South Beach, it would be four months before Williams reached the last eight at another tournament. In between, there were first-week losses at the French Open and Wimbledon, her best major.
At the US Open, she fell in the third round to Serena, who would go on to reach her second Grand Slam final of the year, in a match that was a rout from start to finish.
Originally slated to compete at the Wuhan Open, Venus Williams pulled out of the tournament. According to a statement, the 2015 champion there said that she doesn’t feel “that she’s physically ready to compete at the highest level.”
While this year was a lost campaign for Williams, the seven-time Slam champion has been defying the odds for the better part of a decade now and has often stated her intentions to compete in the Summer Olympics in 2020.
Williams will be 40 then, in a sport where traditionally playing well into your 30s is an anomaly. As she’s shown, though, for the better part of a decade, counting her out can be a mistake. Right now, she’s only a year removed from being near the top of the game. The motivation and goals are there: Now, it’s a matter of making sure the results are there, as well.