Venus readies for Eastbourne after injury layoff

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EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND (AP) - Fit again after the toughest injury layoff of her career, Venus Williams said Saturday that a sixth Wimbledon title is within her reach despite more than four months off the tour.

The 30-year-old Williams will play her first match since January at the Eastbourne International grass-court tournament next week after recovering from a hip injury.

She will be joined at the Wimbledon warmup by younger sister Serena, who hasn’t played in nearly a year since winning a fourth singles title at the All England Club.

“In terms of winning these tournaments, that’s what we are here for,” Venus said. “We’re not here for results, so we are going to do our best to take home two titles on this road.

“Whether it can happen … remains to be seen. But that’s what we aim for every time we hit the court.”

Venus will play Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the first round at Eastbourne, which starts Monday. Petkovic was her opponent when she had to retire because of the injury from a third-round match at the Australian Open.

Serena Williams has been sidelined because of foot surgery and blood clots in her lung. She returned to practice in April and will open her Eastbourne campaign against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Many players would be happy to simply ease back into competitive action, but that attitude isn’t in the Williams sisters’ psyche.

It says a lot about the state of women’s tennis that the sisters will be considered contenders for the Wimbledon title should they emerge unscathed from Eastbourne.

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark is ranked No. 1 but hasn’t won a Grand Slam title. The top 10 rankings are without the Williams sisters _ Serena is No. 25 and Venus is ranked 32nd. However, they own a combined 20 major titles.

Venus dismissed the notion it would reflect badly on the women’s game if she or Serena won Wimbledon despite their lengthy absences.

“At the end of the day, 10 years from now, no one is going to remember, ‘Oh poor V, she was injured’ or ‘poor X player.’ It’ll just say Wimbledon title, hopefully my name on it. And that’s all that matters,” Venus said.

Venus Williams last played Eastbourne in 1998 when she lost to Natasha Zvereva in the opening match. In 1997, she qualified and lost to Nathalie Tauziat in the second round.

She’s just happy to get back playing on grass courts, where she’s won five Wimbledon titles.

“I can’t believe I finally made it back,” she said. “It’s been a very long road. I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been to come and play and just be playing any first-round match anywhere.

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