ROME — Serena Williams is ready to return at the Italian Open after a knee injury has kept her sidelined since winning the Australian Open in January. The top-ranked player has been preparing for her comeback with practice time on clay.
"I had been spending a lot of time on court,'" Williams said. "My body is fine. It's feeling better." Williams won the Italian Open in 2002 and followed the victory with her only French Open title two weeks later. Winning the tournament again after so much time off may be a challenge.
"When you first come back, you're never really 100 percent," Williams said. "At first you just have to start playing some tournaments to see how it goes."
The Williams sisters are in the same half of the draw at the Foro Italico and could meet in the semifinals. Both players have opening-round byes. A month ago, Serena wasn't sure when she would return and did not enter this tournament. But she asked for and received a wild-card entry two weeks ago.
"I still haven't gone on vacation because I have been focusing on my rehab — gym, practice and sleep," Serena said. "I really felt as if I was Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day.' I was even teased about it because I was so frustrated, and so I'm really glad to be out of the United States for a while."
Serena won her fifth Australia Open title after a hard-fought, three-set win over old rival Justine Henin. She indicated that the knee was also bothering her in the warm up tournament in Melbourne. "After Australia, I was amazed even how I was able to win the tournament," she said. "I had to totally recover from that whole Australia bonanza."