Venus makes triumphant return

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The Independent Online

Venus Williams, playing her first match after a six-month injury layoff, took a set to warm up, then dispatched Irina Spirlea to reach the quarterfinals of the Betty Barclay Cup.

Williams, defending champion in the $535,000 tournament, won 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2.

The second-seeded American, down 2-1 in the second set, reeled off seven straight games to win the second and go up a break of serve in the third.

Williams broke serve again for a 5-2 lead and served out the match, hitting a backhand winner on her first match point.

She needed one hour, 58 minutes to prevail over the 53rd-ranked Romanian, who had won one of their three previous encounters.

Williams had been sidelined with tendinitis on both wrists since losing to Martina Hingis in the semifinals of the Chase Championships in November.

Four other seeded players also moved into the quarterfinals - No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, No. 6 Anna Kournikova of Russia, No. 7 Anke Huber of Germany and No. 8 Amanda Coetzer of South Africa.

Sanchez-Vicario is making a record 12th appearance in the clay-court tournament, which she has won three times, her last title coming in 1996.

She beat fellow Spaniard Magui Serna 6-3, 7-6 and will next play Andrea Glass, a German wild card who ousted Tatiana Panova of Russia 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Four other seeded players also moved into the quarterfinals - No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, No. 6 Anna Kournikova of Russia, No. 7 Anke Huber of Germany and No. 8 Amanda Coetzer of South Africa.

Kournikova overwhelmed Sarah Petkowski of France 6-3, 6-0 and will next challenge top-seeded Hingis, who reached the last eight already Wednesday.

Huber, looking for her second title within a month, extended her unbeaten run on clay this year to 10 by routing Sabine Appelmans of Belgium 6-1, 6-3.

The German twice broke Appelmans' serve at the start of the match to lead 3-0 and never looked behind.

Coetzer also coasted in straight sets, beating Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France 6-1, 6-4. Coetzer battles Williams in the quarterfinals.

Second round results C Martinez (Spa) bt L Bacheva (Rom) 6-4 5-7 6-4 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (4), Spain, def. Magui Serna, Spain, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Anke Huber (7), Germany def. Sabine Appelmans, Belgium, 6-1, 6-3. Andrea Glass, Germany, def. Tatiana Panova, Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Anna Kournikova (6), Russia, def. Sarah Pitkowski, France, 6-3, 6-0. Amanda Coetzer (8), South Africa, def. Anne-Gaelle Sidot, France, 6-1, 6-4. Venus Williams (2), United States, def. Irina Spirlea, Romania, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2. Conchita Martinez (3), Spain, def. Lubomira Bacheva, Bulgaria, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

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