Venus Williams edged Karolina Pliskova in two tight sets to win the inaugural WTA Elite Trophy on Sunday and burst back into the top 10 after a gap of four-and-a-half years.
The top seed and seven-time Grand Slam-winner put the seal on a fine end-of-year swing when she beat Czech Pliskova 7-5, 7-6 (8/6) at a purpose-built venue in Zhuhai, southern China.
The title was the second in recent weeks for Williams, 35, who also won last month’s Wuhan Open and moves on to 48 career victories and 41 main-draw wins this year — her most since 2008.
She will now rise from 11th to seventh in the rankings, breaking back into the top 10 for the first time since April 2011 after a long battle with auto-immune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Williams, 35, will also be the oldest top-10 player in 20 years. But the resurgent American, whose younger sister Serena dominates the rankings, said she was still hungry for more.
“It’s a great thing to be top 10 now with the level of the game, but I’m still very hungry. I’m ready for more,” Williams said, according to the WTA website.
“I’ve had so many experiences in tennis that I still expect a lot from myself. So I’m very happy to be moving forward, but I also want to continue, and not stop here.”
Williams ends the season with three titles — also her biggest tally since 2008, the year she last lifted a Grand Slam trophy when she won Wimbledon for a fifth time.
In a final between two evenly matched big hitters, Williams broke at the crucial moment to edge the first set 7-5 and then fought back from 4-2 down in the second to force the tiebreak.
The American survived a set point in the breaker and then dug out her best for the clutch moment, ripping consecutive forehand winners to snatch the set and the win.
“I’m so excited to win the first trophy in Zhuhai. All the players felt so welcome here and we appreciated all of the enthusiasm,” Williams said. – Agence France-Presse