US veteran Venus Williams won her 44th career title — and first in more than two-and-a-half years — when she brushed aside Romanian Monica Niculescu in straight sets in the Luxembourg Open final on Sunday.
Playing in the 71st final of her career, the 32-year-old Williams won 6-2, 6-3 in her first meeting with the 25-year-old from Bucharest.
Williams’ career haul of 44 WTA titles is second-highest among active players, trailing only her sister Serena, who has won 45 and could make that 46 as she plays the WTA Championships in Istanbul this week.
“I had to work so hard to get to the final — the match against Andrea Petkovic in the semi-finals was so challenging and the two matches before as well, and even my first round I had to stay really focused,” Williams said. “Monica was in her second final here so she obviously feels really good on this court. You have to hit five, six, seven shots more than usual. It can be frustrating. She’s tricky. You have to be ready.”
“The score looked easy but the first set was 6-2 and like 42 minutes,” Williams added. “Coming to the tournament this week I was just trying to play well. 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.”
Williams’ last title came at Acapulco in February 2010, before her career went into freefall.
She missed most of the second half of 2010 with a knee injury, most of the first half of last year with hip and abdominal injuries and, most recently, a seven-month lay-off between September last year and March this year due to illness.