Forum Spin Doctor
TERESA M. WALKER
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Venus Williams capped her first tournament back from an injured left wrist in winning fashion Saturday night, beating top-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 6-1, 6-1 in the Cellular South Cup.
This event is merely a Tier III tournament and far below her last victory at Wimbledon in 2005, her fifth Grand Slam. But her 34th career title came in her first tournament since losing in the second round at Luxembourg last October.
"I'm so excited," Williams said.
"I feel like I know I can play this kind of tennis. ... I didn't feel like I was in position to move my feet in any of the first four rounds. Today I knew I had to move. That commitment to really be in position to move, I think made a huge, huge difference."
On the men's side, the top two seeds advanced to the final in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships for the first time since 1987 when Stefan Edberg beat No. 1 seed Jimmy Connors.
Andy Roddick got a little revenge Saturday against Andy Murray for last weekend's semifinal loss in San Jose, beating the young Scot 6-3, 7-6 (4). Tommy Haas downed American Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-4 as the German tries to defend his title.
The 26-year-old Williams had hoped to return to competitive tennis at the Australian Open last month, won by her sister, Serena. But she had to pull out of that event and last week's tournament in Belgium because of her wrist.
She came to Memphis where the winner's check is a mere $28,000 to start working the rust out of her game, knowing that matches that count mean much more than practice. She came in ranked 54th after a year in which she finished outside the Top 15 for the first time in nine years.
That doesn't mean she didn't come to win in a year she plans to be ranked in the top 16 by the French Open.
"Not to injure something in the first week back was the main goal," Williams said.
She had not played Peer before, but she watched her sister beat the 19-year-old Israeli in three sets in the Australian Open quarterfinals last month. She easily overpowered her with aces that reached as high as 125 mph and strong forehands and backhands.
Peer has won three titles and came in ranked 17th in the world. But this was only her 22nd event at this level or higher, and Williams' experience with five Grand Slam titles and six Tier I championships to her credit showed.
"I didn't see her playing like this the whole week," Peer said. "She just made so many winners, and I did a lot of unforced. It was going both ways. I wasn't playing not good, and she was playing good. That's why I lost so easy."
For Roddick, he enjoyed nice revenge against the player who ousted him in the San Jose semifinals last week.
"You don't want to go out of a tournament to the same guy two weeks in a row," Roddick said.
Ranked fourth in the world, Roddick had lost three of his first four matches with the 19-year-old Scot. But the top-seeded American broke Murray when serving for the second set and fought off a set point to hold serve and force the tiebreaker, which he finished off with a pair of 130 mph aces.
Roddick, who won here in 2002, reached his third final in Memphis and first final overall since the U.S. Open last September. He had 15 aces, hitting 136 mph in the opening game. He broke Murray in his first service game and won the first set in 31 minutes.
The 13th-ranked Murray had won eight straight matches going back to San Jose, which he won including that victory over Roddick. But he said he was lethargic to start and hit repeated shots wide or into the net.
"I didn't play a great match today," said Murray, 15-3 this year. "I had my chance 5-3 to win the set, played a horrible game to get broken. In the tiebreak, I mean I missed one bad shot at 4-3. ... To be fair, he came up with some big serves and some big shots and deserved to win the match."
With the victory, Roddick will move up to third in the rankings for the first time in a year and has a chance Sunday at his 22nd title and first since Cincinnati in 2006. He doesn't feel like he's played well this week but has not dropped a set here.
"It's satisfying, especially after last week and that match there. To just reverse it, it's a good feeling," Roddick said.
Haas has played so well he has yet to face a break point this week, and he will try to win his third title in Memphis. Haas improved to 12-2 this year and is in position to win his 11th career title.
"It's nice. You know it's a familiar place here for me," said Haas, ranked No. 9. "It's a good feeling to be in the final of another tournament again, and it's been a while. So it's great. I'm really happy with the way I played today against Mardy."
Haas started off strong against the fourth-seeded Fish. He broke the American's serve in his first game and quickly led 3-0 before closing out the set in 31 minutes.