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Venus Runs Into Trouble

Australian Open: Though she advances to the third round, a recurrence of knee tendinitis produces some doubts.

January 17, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MELBOURNE, Australia — Venus Williams' pursuit of her first Australian Open singles title hit its first serious challenge Wednesday, and it didn't have anything to do with the opposition.

Tendinitis flared in her left knee and nearly knocked her out in the second round. Had Williams been playing someone who represented a genuine threat--no disrespect to her opponent, 79th-ranked Kristina Brandi--she probably would have been eliminated.

Instead, the second-seeded Williams survived pain and limited mobility, beating Brandi, 6-3, 6-4, in 58 minutes, though the victory did not eliminate doubt over her continued participation. Discomfort showed in Williams' service motion and, at times, she did not sit down on changeovers.

Another Williams' withdrawal because of injury would prove devastating to the injury-ravaged tournament. Venus' younger sister, Serena, pulled out on the first day because of an injured right ankle.

Today, Venus showed up at Melbourne Park shortly before noon , did not practice but was said to be doing all right. More important, the injury did not appear to have worsened.

"I've been there and done that, and I think that I'm pretty experienced at dealing with injuries, so I'll just hope for the best and get some [treatment] time," Williams said. "And you know, I just feel like Serena wasn't able to play so I just have to give it my all maybe, and just hang around a little longer."

It sounded as though Venus, 21, was taking matters into her own hands, fully aware of previous criticism over late injury withdrawals.

This episode of tendinitis occurred about 20 minutes before the match, she said, and she was unable to receive much treatment.

"I don't know," she said. "If my dad were here he probably would have talked me out of it. But he wasn't. And I didn't say anything to my mom before I went, so it was a sneaking little thing."

Williams is scheduled to play 18-year-old Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, ranked 28th, in the next round. Though she was able to beat Brandi with one healthy knee, Williams was realistic about her situation.

"If I was playing maybe a top player, I think my chances would have been very slim," she said.

And, in a vast understatement, Williams summed up the first four days at the Open.

"It seems to be just a really bad tournament for the seeds," she said.

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