Despite playing a limited schedule as she returned from her illness-induced hiatus, Venus still managed to rise from No.134 to No.24 in 2012, reach the quarters or better at five of her 10 events, and win her first title in almost three years at Luxembourg.
Strengths: Seeing Williams in full flight is one of the most spectacular sights in tennis. The owner of the biggest serve in the history of women’s tennis is among the hardest hitters in the game, and for someone of her height her movement is exceptional, as is her ability to turn defence into attack. Williams’ reach, athleticism and secure volleys make her an accomplished net player, and like sister Serena, she’s one of the most mentally tough players out there.
Weaknesses: For all her physical gifts and weapons, Williams’ second serve has always been her weakness, delivered with a slight hitch – her head drops sharply to the left – and usually going straight into the middle of the service box. Her forehand is hit a little less cleanly than her rock-solid backhand, therefore more prone to breaking down and producing errors.
Opportunities: Williams played 33 matches in 2012, the most in a single season in two years. Having built up a little more match fitness but still enjoying a decent break between seasons, she will hopefully arrive in Australia refreshed yet grooved and ready for an assault on the Aussie hardcourts. More matches – and wins – leads to increased confidence and consistency, and when Venus’ game comes together, it spells devastation for opponents.
Threats: Already one of the most injury-prone players in the game, Williams’ health remains a day-to-day proposition since her Sjogren’s Syndrome diagnosis in 2011, an auto-immune condition that has sapped her energy for several years. And in 12 visits to Melbourne Park she has never before lifted the trophy – her best chance may have passed her by.
Nicole Pratt, former world No.35 and Tennis Australia’s National Women’s Coach
“History suggests based on her results at the Australian Open that Venus comes in underdone, and not as prepared compared to Wimbledon or the US Open … That said, Venus knows what it takes to win Grand Slam titles and I think she's hungrier than ever. She realises that she only has perhaps one or two good years in her left to play at the highest level. She's always said that she loves Australia and loves being here, but it's going to come down to preparation.”