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Venus looking out for No. 1

Copyright © 2002 Nando Media
Copyright © 2002 Agence France-Presse

PARIS (AFP) - Venus Williams is convinced that this really will be the year.

One would think that four Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and a total of 21 career crowns, not to mention the little matter of almost $10 million in prize money, is a pretty reasonable return for any 21-year-old.

But although she is happy with her achievements, she is far from ecstatic because there is still something missing from her glittering collection - the world No. 1 spot.

It's the one thing that all of her rivals have laid claim to at one stage - Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and, the current queen of the crop, Jennifer Capriati.

"I would really love to be the number one player in the world and I think I am close. I really am not far off," said Williams.

As a result, she is to become a full-time member of the globe-trotting club with a determination to make her dream come true by showing her face more often around the world's circuits.

"I am making a commitment to play more tournaments this year," she pledged in what will amount to a break with routine - in 2001, she put her name down for just 12 events in which she compiled an awesome 46-5 record and picked up six titles.

Now with 2002 just over a month old, she is already into her third event, having been champion on the Gold Coast before hobbling out of the Australian Open in Melbourne, when she gave up a one-set lead to lose to Monica Seles in the quarterfinals.

"There are still things that need work - I lost my serve to Melein Tu in my first match here on Wednesday and I hate it when that happens. I don't like being broken - I like to have a big, strong serve.

"When it works, it can be a huge weapon," said Venus, who wants to emulate Serena by becoming champion here Sunday.

Her sister's win here three years ago came on a crucial day for them and their development as professionals.

"Being here in Paris has made me think about the last three years. When Serena won here in 1999, I saw the winning point on TV and it was fantastic," she said. "They were great days - we were just starting out, making our way through tournaments and starting to win some. The day my sister won in Paris, I was winning the title in Oklahoma.

"Now I have more and more experience on my side."

That experience took her to successful defenses of her Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in 2001 - ironically beating sister Serena in the final in straight sets in New York, although the joy was tarnished by accusations of an "after-you" policy being put into operation by family elders.

Now the news that she intends to put in more and more appearances on the circuit this year will only serve to increase the despondency facing her rivals having to play catch-up.
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