Venus Williams ended the longest title drought of a tennis career slowed by injuries and illness by winning the Luxembourg Open.
The 32-year-old American beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-2, 6-3 yesterday for her 44th WTA singles title and first since winning in Acapulco in February, 2010.
Williams started her 2012 season in March following a seven-month layoff while taking medicine for Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease that also causes joint pain. Her best performance in nine previous tournaments this year was reaching the Cincinnati semifinals in August.
“Coming to the tournament this week I was just trying to play well,” Williams said in comments distributed by the WTA. “I didn’t know if I could win this event, so to stand here as the winner is a wonderful way for me to end the year, and it really makes me look forward to next year as well.”
Since winning in Acapulco more than 2 1/2 years ago, Williams missed most of the second half of 2010 with a knee injury and the majority of the first half of 2011 with hip and abdominal injuries. She then took time out to treat her illness.
Her career haul of 44 singles titles, which includes seven Grand Slam championships, is second-most among active players, trailing only sister Serena, who has won 45. Yesterday’s victory, which improved her record to 44-27 in finals, also lifted her to No. 24 from 41 in the WTA singles rankings.
“My main goal coming here was to make the top 32 and be seeded going into the Australian Open,” Williams added. “Wherever I end up, it’s just very rewarding to win here after facing a lot of challenges.”
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat top seed Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in yesterday’s Kremlin Cup final in Moscow. Andreas Seppi of Italy took the men’s title with a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win over Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci.
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro defeated Slovenian qualifier Grega Zemlja in straight sets in the Erste Bank Open final in Vienna. Del Potro won 7-5, 6-3 after losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in last year’s final.
France’s Tsonga was beaten by Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the Stockholm Open final, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.