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tennisIlove09
Apr 19th, 2004, 04:49 PM
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Venus Named WTATour.com Player of the Week

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Venus Williams would much rather forget 2004 B.C. - before Charleston. After a shaky start to the season that has been plagued by injuries and upsets, the former World No.1 finally landed on the launchpad last week at the Family Circle Cup - snapping a 14-month title drought by defeating Conchita Martinez in her first appearance at Charleston.

Williams' title at the Tier I event - the 30th title of her career - was good enough to grab this week's WTATour.com Player of the Week.

A nagging abdominal muscle forced Williams to miss the final five months of the 2003 season and landed her outside of the Top 10 in the year-end rankings for the first time since 1997. Williams made her return to the WTA Tour at the Australian Open, where she had her earliest departure ever at the event with a third round loss to Lisa Raymond.

A right lower leg muscle strain forced her to withdraw prior to her quarterfinal match with Chanda Rubin in Tokyo and also forced her to miss a scheduled stop in Antwerp. She then fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters at Dubai and to Elena Dementieva in the same round at Miami.

With the clay court season on deck, Williams made her first voyage to Charleston, an event where sister Serena Williams finished as runner-up last year and a very popular Tier I stop for many players.

But her stop in South Carolina didn't look like it would last long in the early stages of her second round match with lucky loser Samantha Reeves. Reeves, would has struggled to win matches in WTA Tour events this year, got off to a strong start - winning the first set and was up a break in the second before Williams marched back to avoid the upset.

From there, Williams surged into the finals with relative ease with wins against Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian, Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Kostanic. And after a few adjustments following her first set loss to Martinez, Williams swept through the second and third sets to win the Charleston title.

"It's nice because it's been really difficult for me and challenging, and even this week with injuries, and it's just been really rewarding to have this title under my belt," said Williams of winning her first title since capturing Antwerp in February of 2003.

With her first title of the year, Williams became only the 13th player in the Open Era to win 30 career titles and tied Tracy Austin for 11th place on the Career Titles list. Martinez is 10th on that list with 32 career titles.

Williams also became only the third player in the last 10 years to win a Tier I event in her debut appearance. The only players to achieve this feat in the last 10 years are Justine Henin-Hardenne at last year’s Family Circle Cup and Martina Hingis at 1998 Indian Wells.