Coetzer advances at Hamburg

South Africa's Amanda Coetzer rolled past Ruxandra Dragomir in straight sets today at the Betty Barclay Cup in Hamburg, Germany, where Venus Williams will make her comeback from injury after a six-month injury layoff.

The eighth-seeded Coetzer blasted the Romanian 6-0, 6-4 on a slow second day at the $535,000 event. Most of the top players like Williams and Martina Hingis play their first matches on Wednesday and Thursday.

Williams, who captured her first clay court title at the event last year, has been sidelined with tendinitis since losing to Hingis in the season-ending Chase Championships in November.

Williams attended fashion school in Florida during her layoff while her father Richard fueled speculation that she would retire at the end of the season to concentrate on her studies.

She will play her first match on Thursday, while the top-seeded Hingis is also coming back from taking a month off and will see her first action on Wednesday.

HIngis could regain the top ranking if she reaches the tournament's final. The Swiss teen-ager hasn't played since beating current No 1 Lindsay Davenport at the Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida.

Russia's Anna Kournikova, the sixth seed, also swings into action on Wednesday against Israel's Anna Smashnova after drawing big crowds to her practices.

Results from the Betty Barclay WTA tennis tournament (seedings in parantheses):

Anne-Gaelle Sidot, France, def. Marlene Weingaertner, Germany, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3). Amanda Coetzer (8), South Africa, def. Ruxandra Dragomir, Romania, 6-0, 6-4. Irina Spirlea, Romania, def. Natasha Zvereva, 6-2, 6-3. Amanda Hopmans, Netherlands, def. Magui Serna, Spain, 6-4, 6-4.

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