Venus rallies to win first tournament since February 2003
April 18, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Venus Williams
spun around, waved and touched her heart, mouthing "I love you" to the crowd.
Advertisement After waiting 14 months for a tournament title, she had her celebration down pat.
No longer injured or tentative, Williams breezed through two wonderful sets and ended her drought by coming back to beat Conchita Martinez
2-6, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday at the Family Circle Cup.
"I just wanted to start this year from here," said Williams, a four-time Grand Slam tournament champion.
By winning on clay, she showed that she could be a factor at the French Open, which starts May 24.
And her postmatch pirouette and special salute to the fans showed how thrilled she was to be a winner again -- for the 30th time in her career. That ties Williams with Tracy Austin for 12th in WTA Tour history.
"I've never played in front of a crowd that was so supportive of me. A lot of times, I can be playing somewhere, and it's right in the United States, and I can be playing someone who I don't even know how to pronounce her name, and the crowd is very much rooting for the other player," Williams said.
"So for me it's very unusual to come to a place and really everyone is just showing a lot of support."
She didn't put on much of a show during the first set, when she lost her serve twice and had just 10 winners to 16 unforced errors.
But everything changed in the last two sets. Williams had 27 winners and 19 unforced errors during that portion of the match, while 1994 Wimbledon champion Martinez had seven winners and 28 unforced errors.
Williams last won a tournament in February 2003, when she beat Kim Clijsters
in the final at Antwerp, Belgium. Shortly after, Williams strained an abdominal muscle, an injury that hampered her until she cut last season short in July.
She looked comfortable on court Sunday, particularly over the last two sets, handling Martinez's changing speeds well and volleying with confidence.
"The first set, I wasn't moving forward enough, and I just really was making too many mistakes," Williams said.
Venus Williams holds her first trophy since beating Kim Clijsters in Belgium last February.(Getty Images)
Later, Williams added, she "wanted to turn it around, and I really just started moving in and coming to the net. And, actually, when I was coming in, I felt really good up there, so I didn't stop."
Overall, she went to net 49 times, winning 35 points there.
Martinez, a two-time champion here, was in her first final in four years. The Spaniard dropped to 0-5 in three-set matches this season. Her first service game in the second set was listless and she was broken at love -- her first break of the match.
"I think I stopped doing whatever I was doing in the first set," Martinez said. "It's sort of tough to play against her. The ball comes differently."
Martinez won few points after the first set with the drop shots and short balls that were effective early. She occasionally was drawn into -- and, for the most part, lost -- hard-hitting rallies with Williams.
"The first couple games, I started really strong and hitting my forehand," Martinez said. Williams "obviously started playing a little better, too, not making many mistakes, but I definitely stopped doing what I needed to do."
Williams' serve also got better as the match went on. She hit 60 percent of her first serves in the second set and an ace in the third set was clocked at 113 mph.
In the doubles final, the top-seeded team of Virginia Ruano Pascual
and Paulo Suarez beat Martina Navratilova
and Lisa Raymond
6-4, 6-1. It was the 47-year-old Navratilova's last appearance at the Family Circle Cup, where she won five doubles titles and four singles titles.