Family Circle scores huge draw with Williams sisters
BY DAVID CARAVIELLO
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Somebody at the Metro Charleston Chamber of Commerce needs to put Serena Williams on the payroll. After all, it was her description of the Family Circle Cup's relatively new home that helped Charleston pull off one of the biggest coups in women's tennis -- having both Williams sisters, the leading draws in the sport, playing in the same tournament.
Outside of the four Grand Slams, seeing Serena and Venus Williams in the same draw is about as rare as finding a bad seat at Family Circle Stadium. The Tier I event at Key Biscayne, Fla., is the only other tournament in which the sisters each play regularly. Two hospitable solo trips to Daniel Island were enough to convince Serena that big sis should come along this year.
"I told her that I enjoyed it here and I loved it here and that she should come," Serena said. "There are so many people that cheer for us here, a lot of great fans. I told her she would really enjoy it."
Added Venus: "I've never been to the event, so I just had to come. I'd heard so much about it, how nice it is, with the new facilities and the new stadium. It's really beautiful."
The Family Circle Cup finds both Williams sisters trying to return to top form after injury-plagued 2003 seasons. Venus missed four months with an abdominal injury, and fell out of the top 10 for the first time in five years. She comes to Charleston ranked 16th and seeded fourth, and yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals in four events this year.
Serena entered last year's Family Circle as the undisputed No. 1 player in the world, with 21 straight match wins and four consecutive Grand Slam titles behind her. On Aug. 1, she had surgery to repair a partially torn quadriceps tendon in her left knee, which kept her sidelined until last month.
Serena won her first tournament back, a Key Biscayne event missing the current world No. 1, defending Family Circle champ Justine Henin-Hardenne. Last week at Amelia Island, Fla., she suffered a straight-set quarterfinal loss to Nadia Petrova in a match during which she was clearly bothered by soreness in the same left knee she had surgery on last year.
Withdrawing from the Family Circle, she said, was not a consideration.
"Physically, I feel like I can run a marathon right now. It's some different moves and different types of things that your knee just has to get used to, especially, I think, switching from hard court to clay. All the sliding might have taken a small toll on the leg," said Serena, ranked No. 9 and seeded second this week.
"Personally, I feel I would like to play a lot better. I feel there's so much more I can do. In practice, I'm continuously angry at myself if it's not going the way I think it should go. I'm insatiable, it seems. I feel that I'm only at a two of a 10 of reaching where I need to be to be at my level."
The loss at Amelia Island was Serena's first since June. She'll surely be tested during the Family Circle, an event featuring one of the strongest fields this season, with eight of the top 13 players in attendance. It was nine before Amelie Mauresmo withdrew Sunday with a back injury.
"The tournament definitely deserves it, I believe," said No. 5 seed Lindsay Davenport. "When the draw came out, I was like, 'My gosh, are all these players going to show?' It's refreshing to see all of them here. It's unfortunate yesterday with Amelie. But in any tournament where you get Venus and Serena competing, as well as Justine No. 1, that's a huge coup for everybody."
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