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Venus sure for Pon De Rock

Justin Marville

Venus sure for Pon De Rock

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BARBADOS EXHIBITION TENNIS is no longer on the rocks – and neither is Venus’ availability for it.
Fans will get the chance to see another Williams sister in action as the autoimmune disease that knocked Venus Williams out of last month’s US Open won’t prevent the former world no. 1 from featuring in December’s Tennis Pon de Rock exhibition series.
The festival’s organizers, Barbados Invitational Tennis Exhibition [BITE], assured the public of Venus’ participation during yesterday’s Press launch at the Sugar Hill Resort.
“She will be fit,” affirmed BITE director Kodi Lewis ahead of the December 10 to 11 series.
“She’s back on the court as we speak. I’ve spoken to Venus herself, I’ve spoken to her managers, I’ve had discussions with her doctor. I also spoke to Dr [Raymond] Forde to get our own description of the auto immune disease she has.
Word of Venus’ participation originally broke last week when an inside source leaked that the elder Williams sister was tabbed to appear in the exhibition series along with women’s no. 3 Victoria Azarenka and top-ranked men’s players Gael Monfils and John Isner.
But there were questions surrounding Venus’ fitness as the seven-time Grand Slam champ was forced to withdraw from the US Open last month after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome.
This was after Williams had already retired from a third-round match in the Australian Open with a hip muscle injury, which forced her to miss Roland Garros.
“[Her managers] found out about her condition about six weeks prior to the US Open and what they tried to do was both treat it and train to play because she really wanted to play the US Open, but with this type of disease you can’t really do that,” Lewis revealed.
“[However], once it’s treated it’s something that shouldn’t affect you again once you keep on your regimen.
“So, long story short, yes, she’s back on the court and she will be very fit to play. She’s very much looking forward to coming as well,”  added Lewis.
Venus is slated as the main drawing card for the two-day exhibition series, which is returning from a year-long hiatus following the 2009 hit that featured Serena Williams and current world no.1 Caroline Wozniacki.
Last year’s event was set to include Monfils, Isner and former US Open king Juan Martin del Potro, but had to be abandoned after the organisers failed to find a last-minute replacement for the injured Monfils. However, both he and Isner reconfirmed their commitment to play this year, although del Potro will not be appearing in this year’s festival.
“Del Potro is fighting injury so he couldn’t give us a 100 per cent commitment . . . and also his cost is very expensive as well,” revealed Lewis.
“But personally I think the players we have, in terms of playing exhibitions, are better suited and more vibrant and interact with the crowds a lot more. And they’ve had better results for the year.”
The four players are expected to play in doubles and mixed doubles matches at Sugar Hill Tennis Resort, St James, on December 10 before returning to the Wildey Gym for two singles matches.