Refreshed Venus ready to resume her office job outdoors

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The Independent Online

Venus Williams has been having lots of good days at the office, though not the office - that is, the tennis court - to which players usually refer, be it for good days or bad. Since losing to her younger sister, Serena, in the Wimbledon singles final last July, Venus has spent most of her time at her interior design company in Florida. Either there, or being treated by her physiotherapist.

First there was an abdominal strain, which kept her out of action until the Australian Open. Then a leg injury caused her to withdraw from the quarter-finals of a tournament in Tokyo at the start of this month.

Compared to her sister, however, Venus has been virtually non-stop. Serena has had no days at the office since surgery to her left knee last August. A good day at the clinic became her goal.

"She's good, she's good," Venus said when asked about Serena, who is due to make her long-awaited comeback up the coast from here in a tournament in Doha, Qatar, next week. "From what I heard," Venus giggled, "she's going to be there." The reason for the giggle was not explained.

Venus is definitely at the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open. Having been given a bye in the first round, along with the other top seeds, she is due to play her opening match this afternoon against Alicia Molik, of Australia.

During their rehabilitation, the Williams sisters, both former world No 1s, were supplanted by the Belgians, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters. Serena is currently ranked No 6 and Venus No 18.

There is a perception that only the Williamses, if restored to their former powers, are capable of preventing the two Belgians from dominating the major championships.

Results such as the sixth-seeded Jelena Dokic's first-round defeat last night to the 40th-ranked Petra Mandula, of Hungary, 6-1, 6-2, do not help to alter that view.

"I don't know," Venus said, "because when I think about Grand Slams I'm thinking about me as the victor. I don't concern myself with the next person." Remembering her family loyalties, she added: "If I'm not winning, I'm hoping Serena is. I transfer all my hopes to her." Asked how difficult she thought her latest comeback would be, Venus said: "I don't see what the difference is from me playing six months ago to playing now. Obviously at times you'll be a little bit off, and you won't be as ready as normally. I'm just hoping for the best.

"I haven't had to have surgery yet at all, so in a way I'm fortunate with that. But I have had injuries that are hard to heal," she added.

"I think it is possibly good to have some time off, although it was a forced exile, because other players don't get to have that. I think having time off and returning to some kind of normality will lengthen my career.

"I got to wake up late, which was an extremely new experience. That was nice. I did my physiotherapy, of course, and did what training I could. Then I went to the office, and hung out there."

But injuries were the least of the Williamses' troubles last year. Their half-sister, Yetunde, was shot dead in Los Angeles last September.

Asked if she and Serena planned to commemorate Yetunde in some way, such as a children's foundation, Venus said: "I don't know. I just believe in being thankful for what she did, and thankful for the good times. That's what I try to focus on. But it's hard, because I'll be like: 'Who can I call, I want to talk to about something?' And so I have one less person to call. It's really weird."

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