May 3, 2006

Venus Williams earns first victory of 2006

WARSAW (Reuters) - Venus Williams earned her first victory
of 2006 on Wednesday when she defeated Urszula Radwanska 6-3
6-3 to reach the second round of the Warsaw Cup.

The seventh-seeded American, who was beaten in the first
round of the Australian Open in her only other match this year,
had managed just one win since reaching the quarter-finals of
the 2005 U.S. Open after suffering elbow and arm injuries.

The Wimbledon champion could not have asked for a gentler
return to the tour, facing a 15-year-old Polish wild card
playing her first WTA event. However, she faces a sterner test
in the next round against Switzerland's Martina Hingis.

"I was really eager and ready to go. It was exciting,"
Williams told reporters. "All in all I'm happy. You can't ask
for too much more.

"At this stage every match is important to me, to get a
rhythm and start dominating hopefully.

"Basically I strained a ligament in my elbow," Williams
said of her injury. "It was like a golfers' elbow. It was a
really hard place to heal and it just took time.

"I was always practicing a lot but I couldn't serve. That
was a big problem, so I had to wait until my arm didn't hurt
before I could serve.

"I really didn't want any more Australian Opens where I
wasn't playing at 100 percent with preparation or health. I
just didn't want to come back until I knew I could do that."

Radwanska, whose older sister Agnieszka upset sixth seed
Anastasia Myskina on Tuesday, competed well but had nothing in
her game that could cause Williams any concern.

Williams' greatest challenge came from her lack of match
play, and she only occasionally showed glimpses of her best
level. Her greater power, though, always gave her the
advantage, even though she sometimes lacked accuracy.

Two aces in the opening game gave Williams the start she
needed as she held to love, and a deep ball forced a forehand
error from Radwanska to earn her a break for 3-1.

Although Williams made a backhand error to concede her own
serve in the next game, she broke again to lead 4-2 with a
forehand winner, failed to convert a set point on Radwanska's
serve at 5-2 but then served out for the set.

Williams broke again to begin the second set but Radwanska
leveled at 2-2 when the ball hit the net cord and left Williams
with no chance of reacting.

But the 2004 Warsaw champion broke once more to lead 3-2,
and after failing to win two break points at 4-2 she took the
match with a further break at 5-3 when Radwanska