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Serena Williams Returns to Tennis Following Break for Knee Surgery - 2004-03-25

Former world number-one women's tennis player Serena Williams of the United States will be back on the courts for the first time in eight months, when she competes this week at the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami, Florida.

The younger Williams sister was last in action at Wimbledon in July, where she successfully defended her title by defeating older sister Venus in the final.

Several weeks later she underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in her left knee, which forced her to miss the remainder of the season.

While recovering from the operation, Williams spent time working on some of her fashion designs and acting. But Williams has dismissed suggestions that she might be considering giving up tennis for a career in acting or design.

"Definitely. I do not have many acting gigs right now, you know, it has been real hard," she admits. "And designing is something really easy, it is all about sketches and stuff like that, I mean sure it is a lot about fabrics. So it is just me doing all these different designs and different looks. And that really is, it is really relaxing for me to just be sitting with my pad and drawing or looking through a magazine. " Serena is anxious to make her return to the court, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the NASDAQ-100 Open. She has won the tournament twice, and is hoping to join her sister Venus and Steffi Graf as the only three-time winners of the event.

The 32 seeded players receive first-round byes, meaning they'll play their opening matches Friday or Saturday. Because of the absence of the four top-ranked women's players, including Belgians Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, Williams is seeded number-one.

Clijsters is recovering from a torn tendon in her left wrist, while number-three Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo is out with a back injury. Fourth-ranked Lindsay Davenport of the United States, like Henin-Hardenne, is taking a break.

Though she has dropped to number-six in the world rankings, Serena says she still feels like she should be number-one.

"I left number one -- barely hanging on -- but in your mind I think you always have to think the best, whether you are number one or number 100. If you are striving to get to number one, then you have to think you are number one. So of course," she says.

She will face either Marta Marrero of Spain or fellow-American Angela Haynes in the second round.