Williams sisters aiming for Australia comeback

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The Independent Online

Serena and Venus Williams, each sidelined with injuries since July, plan to return to the WTA Tour in January.

Serena is the defending champion at the Australian Open, which begins 19th January She has not played since defeating older sister Venus for the Wimbledon title in July.

That is also the last time Venus played because she aggravated an abdominal muscle in the semifinals. The World No 3 Serena and seventh–ranked Venus each will miss the season–ending WTA Championships beginning tomorrow in Los Angeles.

Serena had left knee surgery on 1st August, and she said her knee is "doing really good. I've been staying in pretty good shape. I'm not gaining any weight" she said Monday night after debuting her own fashion line called Aneres at a charity benefit.

Serena said her first event in 2004 will be the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, a mixed team event that begins on 3rd January. She and James Blake won last year's title for the United States.

"I'm pretty much there now," she said, adding that she's resumed practicing. "My mom and dad don't want me to rush anything, so I'm trying to take my time."

Serena had a 38–3 match record and won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles this year. She was a semi-finalist at the French Open, then skipped the US Open after having surgery.

Venus also has resumed hitting in preparation for playing an unspecified warmup event before the Australian Open. "I'm really doing a lot better," she said. "Until a few weeks ago, I was really just in the down and outs with the injury. I just realised one day I'm doing better, but it took a while to get to that point."

Venus first strained her abdominal muscle in late April. The injury flared up in the Wimbledon semi-finals, and she was in obvious pain playing her sister in the final.

In hindsight, Venus said she shouldn't have played the French Open in May, where she lost in the fourth round. "I guess that's what helped me also make that decision not to play the US Open because I realised the damage I had done to myself in previous tournaments," she said. "I'll get a good start next year, 100 percent healthy, hopefully."

Venus lost to Serena in this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon finals.

In addition to Serena's fashion line, Venus debuted a small collection of her leather designs at the WTA Tour charity event on Monday night.

One of the charities chosen by the Williams sisters was Stop the Violence, a nonprofit group formed to counteract violence, drugs and crime among youth.

Their half–sister, Yetunde Price, was shot dead on 14th September while riding with a companion in a sport utility vehicle in Compton. Price was the sisters' personal assistant. Neither Serena nor Venus took any questions Monday night about the shooting.