Tennis-Venus in for the long haul, sets up Kvitova clash


(Recasts, adds Kvitova quotes)

By Sarah Young

LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Venus Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champion who last won in 2008, insisted she has plenty of top-level tennis left in her as she set up a third-round clash with Petra Kvitova.

At 34, Venus is the oldest player left in the women's singles after defeating Japan's Kurumi Nara 7-6 6-1 and fended off questions about the future of her tennis career, saying her hunger for the game remains undiminished.

"For me, when I leave tennis, I want it to be on my own terms. I want to know that I rose to every challenge," the world No.31 told reporters after advancing to the third round of a grand slam for the first time in 18 months.

The match between Venus and Kvitova will be the first meeting of two former champions at this year's tournament.

Kvitova, the world No.6 who is ten years Venus's junior, won the singles here in 2011 but fell at the quarter-final stage in 2012 and 2013.

Asked about her seniority, Williams joked that she'd worn sunscreen to keep the crow's feet at bay as she forecast a tough match against Kvitova.

Looking to the next match, the Czech, who has won the pair's past two contests, promised a "great fight".

"I think it is going to be very important to stay confident and play for every point. She has a big serve, so I need to return that," Kvitova said.

She had earlier cruised past Germany's Mona Barthel 6-2 6-0, in a display that she said confirmed her strapped-up hamstring was on the mend. The injury had kept her from last week's warm-up tournament in Eastbourne.

Earlier in the day Venus was put through her paces by world No.41 Nara in the first set before dominating the second after the Japanese player took a medical time out and returned to play with a bandaged thigh.

The American, who rejected speculation that she was late on court because of a brush with Wimbledon's strict playing dress code, took the match in an hour and a half, pumping out seven aces and hitting 46 winners.

Asked which she would wish for if she was given the chance at one more title, the seven-time grand slam champion said she didn't want only one.

"I want singles, I want doubles, gold medals, and while I'm on tour I'm going to aim for that the best I can," said Venus, who is due to play in the doubles with her sister, Serena, later on Wednesday.

Venus missed last year's Wimbledon with an injury and has struggled to progress beyond the early stages of a grand slam singles event over the past three years, having had an auto-immune disease diagnosed in September 2011.

(Editing by David Goodman)

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