Venus Williams admitted that she felt the picture of health as the seven-time Grand Slam winner claimed a second consecutive title at the Barclays Championships 6-3, 7-5 over Victoria Azarenka.
The 29-year-old American, who spent the week beating players almost a decade her junior, said she never notices that kind of detail on court.
But she added that top in her mind was the fact that she’s no longer wearing the leg strapping, which blighted her life during 2009, with its last appearance at the Doha year-end finals in November.
“I hate the strap. It was huge and horrible. I never wanted it again — hopefully,” she joked.
“(Fitness after her undisclosed 2009 injury) is a learning curve, I’ve learned how to manage my pain better. It’s about not letting it get to that level that you have a huge strap on.” Williams had an indifferent season after winning Dubai a year ago and following up within weeks with an Acapulco title.
The fresh momentum suddenly stopped with defeats in finals at Wimbledon, Stanford and Doha.
But 2010 is a new season, which has already begun with an Australian open quarterfinal and the Dubai trophy.
“I’m starting to feel better, I’m very excited about that,” said Williams. “I give 100 per cent in training, but maybe not six hours on court and then four hours in the gym. That’s not really a good recipe.” Williams earned her 42nd career trophy in one hour, 38 minutes in a contest which turned into a battle.
Azarenka of Belarus saved two match points in the final game, but chipped a volley short into the net to lose.
“I expected her to come out and play well,” said Williams. “Even though I was leading in the second set, she just never gave up. She played really well.
“She’s very strong off the ground and very consistent but I think I was a bit stronger than her that helps me.” Williams now stands 2-0 over the 20-year-old Azarenka.
Williams got through a brief wobble in the 35-minute opening set, coming from 0-30 in the third game before holding and finding the rhythm of her game.
The third seed broke for 4-2 over Azarenka then fired a love game for 5-2.
Williams took the opening set as she against recovered from 0-30 and saved a break point with a winner to the corner. Azarenka returned long to lose the set.
In the second, it was looking like all-Williams, beginning with a break in the opening game.
But in the sixth game, the tone shifted as the veteran failed to earn a 4-3 lead, her third double-fault yielding a break point, which Azarenka converted to stay the chase 3-all. The contest stayed on serve until Williams broke for 6-5 then fought through the final game for the victory.