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Serena Williams Is Ready to Return

Former No. 1 player, who hasn't played since January, said she needed to take a break mentally and physically.

July 14, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Serena Williams, unseen on a tennis court since her third-round loss at the Australian Open in January, confirmed on Thursday that she is going to return to the WTA Tour next week at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati.

Williams, 24, has won seven Grand Slam tournaments but none since the 2005 Australian Open. She has played only 10 tournaments since then and hasn't played a full schedule since undergoing knee surgery in 2003. Last year, Williams withdrew from eight tournaments she had entered, citing left ankle and knee injuries.

Of this latest break from the game, Williams said, "I just needed to take some time for myself, for my knee, mentally.

"I was going through a lot of stuff in my life, a lot more than everyone would know," she said in a conference call. "I was taking on a lot, I was playing but I wasn't mentally ready to play and that had an effect on my knee. I needed time to clear my mind. But tennis is what I like to do best."

Williams, a former No. 1, is now ranked No. 140 in the world. She has played only three matches this year and said, "Match toughness is what I'm most worried about, getting back, playing some matches, getting used to points, knowing what points are best to win."

Last year Williams had a match record of only 21-7, 14-7 if you take out her Australian Open run. She was upset by Jill Craybas in the third round of Wimbledon and then lost to her sister, Venus, at the U.S. Open. After that defeat, Serena played only one more match that season.

During her time away from the game, Williams said, she has heard criticism -- most notably from former tennis great Chris Evert -- that she is wasting her athletic talent by not focusing on tennis in what should be the prime of her career.

"Tennis only lasts so long," Williams said. "Family lasts forever, happiness lasts forever and that's what I've stuck with. Now I'm playing tennis and I'd like to play my best."

While sidestepping questions of how much she weighs right now -- "I haven't stepped on a scale since I was 12," she said -- Williams offered that, "I hope I'm in good shape. I hope to stay well, stay fit, keep my knee in shape." And while the JPMorgan Chase Open scheduled for the week of Aug. 7 at Carson has listed Serena and Venus Williams as participating, Serena wouldn't commit to that.

"I'm taking it tournament by tournament," she said. "I'm not looking ahead."

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