Williams sisters and Mauresmo raring to go
By Emma Quayle
January 12, 2005
Serena Williams, with mother Oracene in the background, takes to the practice courts at Melbourne Park yesterday.
Photo: Angela Wylie
The Australian Open women's draw lost none of its lustre yesterday, with the apparently healthy arrivals of championship contenders Serena and Venus Williams and Amelie Mauresmo.
Fortunately for a tournament that has lost Belgian pair Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, all three looked healthy as they practised at Vodafone Arena yesterday.
Serena Williams, who has not played any tournament tennis leading in to next week's event, had her ankles strapped before hitting with elder sister Venus. But the 23-year-old, who played doubles at a Hong Kong exhibition event last week, looked relaxed and moved powerfully around the court, seemingly untroubled by the abdominal injury that worried her for much of last year.
The 2003 Australian Open champion fell to No. 7 in the world rankings after she missed last year's tournament following knee surgery, and failed to claim any of the three other grand slam titles. She is, though, a marginal favourite to take the title at $4.25 ahead of world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport at $4.50.
Henin-Hardenne abandoned plans for her title defence after MRI scans revealed a broken bone in her right knee, while Clijsters has been troubled by a wrist injury. Jennifer Capriati, who has not played in Melbourne since she lost her first-round match in 2003, has a shoulder injury and also is in some doubt.
The Williams' first Melbourne session was overseen by their mother, Oracene, who filmed Venus with a camcorder. The 24-year-old dropped out in the third round of last year's Open, on her way back from stomach problems.
World No. 2 Mauresmo, who has been battling a recent adductor injury and withdrew from the Hong Kong event, appeared equally comfortable during her centre-court practice session.
Mauresmo, the $6 third favourite, hit with Russia's US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the world No. 5 who has not gone past the third round in three trips to Melbourne Park.