Venus triumphant in return to singles competition

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Venus Williams returns the ball to Kimiko Date-Krumm, of Japan, during their match at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament  Wednesday.  LYNNE SLADKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
LYNNE SLADKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Venus Williams returns the ball to Kimiko Date-Krumm, of Japan, during their match at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament Wednesday.

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams won in her first singles match since August, dispatching Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-0, 6-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open on Wednesday.

She beamed wide, raised her arms in victory, then skipped to the net to shake’s Date-Krumm’s hand before twirling around and pumping her arms in a celebration worthy of winning the title, not just a first match.

But other than playing a meaningless doubles match during the United States’ Fed Cup first round victory over Belarus in early February, she hadn’t played an official match since the U.S. Open first round.

Williams, 31, withdrew from her second round match against Sabine Lisicki at the U.S. Open after announcing she was diagnosed with the fatigue-causing, auto-immune disease known as Sjogren’s Syndrome.

“I mean, just to be in this tournament is a huge win for me. Just to be here is a win,” Williams said. “You know, that’s what I told myself going in, that this is a win. I have nothing to lose. Just, you know, to gain. Just to get back at this level is a win for me.”

Asked how she felt during and after the match, Williams said, “I feel like a person that has an autoimmune disease. You know, for me, I’m not going to probably feel like everybody else. But for me, my personal best is to give 100 percent”

Once a world No. 1 and a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, Williams is ranked No. 134. She’s hoping to be able to play steadily now and to make her third U.S. Olympic team – she won gold in singles and doubles at the 2000 Sydney Games and a doubles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Unseeded Kim Clijsters, a former Sony Ericsson Open champion (2005 and 2010), came through a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 first-rounder against Jarmila Gajdosova.

Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam champion, is currently ranked No. 37.

This match was Clijsters’ first outing on court since she sustained a left ankle injury at the Australian Open. She lost in three sets to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open semifinals.

“My ankle feels – it feels totally fine,” Clijsters said. “I don’t worry about it anymore. I’m not able to play without the tape yet. I still need that support.”

Clijsters clearly struggled to find her form at the outset of the match. She lost the first set to the No. 45 ranked Gajdosova after initially leading 3-1 in that opening set.

But once she found her groove, she dominated the final two sets.

Sandwiched between the Clijsters and Williams matches was one between two tour veterans that once ranked in the top 10: James Blake and Nikolay Davydenko.

Blake opened strong but wilted against Davydenko, who won 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.


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