With a 17th pro season ahead of her and a third decade around the corner, Venus Williams is setting no timetable on when she might call it quits.
“As long as I’m playing great, I’m not putting a number on it yet,” said seven-time major winner Williams, who turns 30 in June.
Williams spoke Wednesday by phone from New York for the Cup exhibition at Madison Square Garden in March.
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The $1.2 million, one-night event features Venus, younger sister Serena Williams, French Open winner and U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters. No. 1 Serena beat Venus in last year’s final.
“I love playing in New York, and I’m happy to be back,” Venus said.
The 29-year-old American put together one of her more dependable campaigns in 2009, winning her 40th and 41st singles titles, reaching the final at the Sony Ericsson Championships in October and finishing the season at No. 6 for the second straight year.
For the first time since 2006, Venus failed to win a major, though she reached the final. Venus lost to Serena in a rematch of 2008.
“It’s never fun to come that close and not win,” said Venus, who said she put the loss behind her quickly and called her season “consistent” and “solid.”
“I made a real effort to play all year,” she added. “I want to be out there playing. I don’t want to be doing anything else.”
Venus declined to address her sister’s record $82,500 fine and two-year Grand Slam probation. The International Tennis Federation handed down the punishment this week for the 11-time major winner’s profanity-laced tirade in a semifinal loss to Clijsters at the U.S. Open.
“Serena is a great player and a great person and a real plus to anyone’s life that she’s in or that she’s touched – mine and people that she doesn’t even know,” said Venus. “That’s what I can say.”
Asked if the penalty fit the crime, she said: “I don’t get involved in all this commentary. I never have and I’m not going to start today.”
Venus did voice an opinion about news this week that another tournament could be leaving U.S. soil. The ATP Tour’s Indianapolis event in July could be removed from the calendar altogether if a new home isn’t found, according to several reports.
“The tournaments have slowly shifted away from the U.S.,” she said. “I’ve definitely started to miss playing here as much as used to. But we have to be in those markets that can support us at the moment. I’m sure in the future we can build more U.S. tournaments.”
As usual, Venus will kick off her season at the Australian Open following exhibitions in Hong Kong and Thailand. She will play no tune-ups and is not looking to shake up her pre-season routine.
“It’s the usual: Gym, practice and all the stuff in between,” she said. “I have the right formula and I know how to do it at this point. It won’t be anything new.”
With so many new and old faces on the comeback trail from retirement, injury or confidence slumps, the women’s tour in 2010 could again be full of surprises.
Along with new mother Clijsters, who won in New York in just her third tournament following a two-year layoff, the new season will feature the return of another Belgian, Justine Henin, who left the sport in 2007 when she was ranked No. 1.
Other former No. 1s – still Slam-less Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic, 2006 Melbourne champ Maria Sharapova, and struggling Ana Ivanovic – should be primed for a strong start in what is shaping up to be a wide-open season.
Any player with legitimate hopes of snagging the hardware will probably have to go through top-ranked Serena, a four-time Melbourne winner and the defending champ.
One plus for all the players is a longer offseason. As part of the so-called roadmap, the WTA Sony Ericsson Tour finished two weeks earlier than the year before and a full month before the men.
“The offseason definitely helps with injuries and gives an opportunity to heal,” said Venus. “I’m healthy and strong.”