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Williams Sisters Plan January Return to Tennis Tour - 2003-11-04


American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams plan to make their returns to the WTA Tour in January. Both have been sidelined by injuries since July and are missing the season-ending WTA championships that begin Wednesday in Los Angeles. Serena says her first event in 2004 will be the Hopman Cup mixed team event that begins January third in Perth, Australia. She and James Blake won the title for the United States last January.

Venus has not indicated which event she will play in first, but she says she wants to compete in the Australian Open, which begins January 19. Venus first strained a stomach muscle in April and she aggravated it at Wimbledon in July.

Serena, the defending Australian Open champion, had surgery on her left knee August first and says she's "doing really good." Her world ranking has fallen from first to third during her layoff, while Venus's ranking has fallen from fourth to sixth.

Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand gave her country's tennis fans a reason to cheer Tuesday as she survived her first round match at the Volvo Women's Open in the resort town of Pattaya.

Ranked 33 in the world, but the top seed at this secondary event, Tamarine rallied from a first set loss to beat New Zealand qualifier Ilke Gers, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Widely followed Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova, who has been sidelined from the regular tour with injuries, is scheduled to play an exhibition match against Tamarine after the women's singles final on Sunday.

The second seed at the Thai tournament, Saori Obata of Japan, also struggled in her opening match, needing three sets to get past Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. The Japanese player produced a flurry of unforced errors in the second set and trailed 1-4 in the third before finding her form and gaining a spot in the second round. Obata has seen her ranking jump from 108th at the end of last year to a career-best 49th.

Seventh-seed Jelena Kostanic of Croatia had little difficulty in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Austrian Tina Schiechtl, while fourth seed Anca Barna of Germany defeated Austrian Sandra Klemenschits 6-2, 7-6. Croatian Ivana Abramovic scored an easy 6-3, 6-0 victory over Maki Arai of Japan.

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