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Venus Williams Makes Competitive Return in Memphis

February 19, 2007 10:59 AM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Venus Williams doesn't exactly know how her injured left wrist will respond in her return to competitive tennis. She just knows it's time.

"I've been working fairly hard, but obviously with match play, the stamina gets tested,'' Williams said. "(Match play) is nothing like practice. It's definitely not the same. It definitely will be a test, but it's a test I've practiced for.''

Williams, who has played in only two matches since July and has been completely off the tennis circuit since October, returns this week as the seventh seed in the Cellular South Cup, a Tier III event in Memphis.

" I think there's always a difference in practice and a match,'' Williams said. "Actually, I usually play better than in practice. With a match, it's a different kind of pressure.''

The 26-year-old Williams faces Akiko Morigami of Japan in her opening match Monday. Shahar Peer of Israel is the tournament's top seed.

Williams is ranked No. 53 in the WTA rankings because of her inactivity since the injury. The wrist bothered her enough that she not only avoided competitive tennis, but had trouble with everyday tasks such as typing.

She withdrew from the Australian Open in January, a tournament her sister Serena eventually won.

"It was so exciting; it really was,'' Venus said. "I lived and died with every moment. I was her biggest fan, and I couldn't wait for more Serena Willliams coverage."

Venus Williams has 33 career singles victories, but has not won since Wimbledon in 2005, her fifth Grand Slam title.

Williams also dropped out of the Diamond Games in Antwerp, Belgium, earlier this month before deciding it was time to return this week. There was nothing special about a timetable or building toward a particular tournament, she said. Just a desire to get back on the court and put the wrist to the test.

"You just play it by ear,'' Williams said. ``You can't rush it. I've rushed it before, and it doesn't work."

" I actually feel like I'm pretty close to where I want to be. There's always room for improvement.''




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