Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says she is now playing at a better level than at the start of an injury-plagued 2023 season after sealing her first top-20 win in four years by beating Veronika Kudermetova at the Cincinnati Open on Monday.
The 43-year-old’s hopes of competing in the Australian Open in January were dashed after she suffered a hamstring problem at the rain-hit Auckland Classic and she only returned in June having decided to skip Roland Garros.
Williams, who injured her right knee during her Wimbledon defeat to Elina Svitolina last month, said she was happy to get past world number 16 Kudermetova in Cincinnati after rain interrupted the contest.
“I think I’m at a better level than I started the year, to be honest,” Williams told reporters.
“I was actually worried about the rain delay because I’m traumatized by Auckland and all those rain delays and getting injured after that, cooling down and changing serves, going in. I’m like ‘Oh my God I can’t let that happen again to me’.”
Williams, currently ranked number 533, overcame deficits in both sets to bag her first tour win since beating Camila Giorgi in the Birmingham first round and said playing more regularly had helped her build momentum.
“My serve is better. My second serve is better. It’s really about playing matches. You can’t replicate it. Especially after you take a large amount of time off,” Williams said.
“You have to keep putting yourself in that position to just play. So that’s really where I am right now. I’m fine game-wise, but playing matches is a different ball game.”
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