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At the Net: Venus is hangin' in there

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Updated: 4/03 1:39 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Sure, her best tennis is certainly in the rear-view mirror, but Venus Ebony Starr Williams is quietly playing some good ball this season.

Yes, the 33-year-old crashed out in the first round at the Australian Open in January and hasn't made it past the third round at a Grand Slam event since Wimbledon in 2011, but 2014 has seen the veteran star already reach two finals in five tournaments.

This week, Venus is competing at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., where she claimed a title 10 long years ago.

She opened her latest campaign with a very surprising trip into a final in Auckland, where she lost to fellow former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic. Next came the flame-out at the Aussie, where she gave way to Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the round of 128.

Venus then followed up the Aussie debacle with a disappointing second-round exit in Doha, but since then the seven-time major singles champ has righted the ship.

She not only reached another final, this time in Dubai, she won it against France's Alize Cornet to cap off a great week that also saw her stop Ivanovic and another fellow former No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, as well as resurgent Italian Flavia Pennetta in February. The title was the 45th of her Hall of Fame career.

Then at the important Sony Open in Miami, the Palm Beach resident found her way into the fourth round before losing to Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in a tough three-setter.

So, Venus, who is slowed by Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes, among other things, joint pain and fatigue, has been picking up the pace of late. She now has herself up to No. 28 in the world, but don't get too excited, because I don't see her making another run into the Top 10.

The power baseliner Venus has finished inside the Top 10 a whopping 11 times, including five straight years from 1998-2002 and four consecutive years from 2007-10, which is the last time she placed in that elite group. In '02, she became the first-ever black woman in the Open Era (since 1968) to reach No. 1.

The Sjogren's issue was perhaps the main reason Venus finished 103rd in the world in 2011. But she rebounded the next year to close out 2012 at No. 24. Injuries then played a factor in her slipping once again last season, a year in which she finished at No. 49 on the planet.

Even though she's on the move once again, "V" needs to prove it again at the majors.

The 6-foot-1 star (or is it Starr?) hasn't reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since 2010, when she appeared in a U.S. Open semifinal, a Wimbledon quarterfinal and an Aussie quarter. That was her last solid season on the grueling WTA tour.

Did You Know?: Venus has never captured French or Aussie Open singles titles.

Over her last 10 Slams, Venus has failed to get past the first round three times, the second round three times and the third round on two occasions. Her best showing at a major over the last four years came at Wimbledon three years ago when she moved out in the fourth round.

The last time Venus captured a Slam came at Wimbledon in 2008, which marked her fifth championship at The Championships. She's one of only four women in the Open Era to have won five or more Wimbledon singles titles.

In addition to her seven major singles crowns and 2000 Olympic gold medal, the 20-year pro is also a seven-time Grand Slam runner-up and has earned just under $30 million in career prize money.

And perhaps you've heard of her younger sister?

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