Williams makes pitch to play in April event

Updated: January 17, 2005, 5:05 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- If U.S. captain Zina Garrison wants Serena Williams to play in the country's Fed Cup match against Belgium at Delray Beach, Fla., in April, Williams will be there.

"It's in Delray -- are you serious?" Williams said Monday after her first-round win at the Australian Open. "Oh, I'll really want to play. I really want to play for Zina. I haven't been able to play with her yet.

"That's perfect. It doesn't get better than that."

Williams, who has lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was mentored by 1990 Wimbledon finalist Garrison when she was new on the WTA Tour.

After her 6-1, 6-1 win over Camille Pin of France, Williams was more excited to talk about her appearance in the TV sitcom "All of Us," than about her match. Williams said she played two roles in the show, which is produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett.

"I never do comedy," Williams said. "They have been begging me to do a show a lot, but I never got the right script."

She plays herself, and her assistant.

"Her assistant was named Wanda, she was kind of ... out there, wore a really loud blond wig. She was really eccentric. I really got to stretch my comedic roles. I ad-libbed so much."

Asked if hers was an Emmy-winning performance, Williams said: "Definitely not."

Friendly banter
Marat Safin gave former Australian Open champion Jim Courier some good-natured razzing when Courier interviewed the Russian at the Australian Open on Monday.

Courier, a four-time major champion who'll be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July, is working for Australia's Seven television network. Courier replaced John McEnroe.

"Actually, he's better than McEnroe at these things," Safin told the center court crowd after beating Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

Courier gave some ribbing back by asking Safin about his performance at the Hopman Cup team event two weeks ago, where Safin went 0-6 in singles and mixed doubles.

Safin responded: "Did you have to bring that up?"

And Safin jokingly chastised Courier for reminding him that he's been a losing finalist here twice in the past three years.

"It's too disappointing to think about," Safin said.

Two-sport Draper
Australian Scott Draper can pack away his tennis racket for a while and take out his golf clubs.

Draper lost his first-round match Monday at the Australian Open to 13th-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain. Unless he gets a wild-card entry for doubles, Draper will tackle the pro golf tour for the next two months.

Draper, 30, qualified for his Australasian PGA tour card in December. He'll play in the Victoria Open next week, then try to qualify for the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne in early February.

He'll play several secondary tour events before turning his attention back to tennis to get ready for the French Open and Wimbledon. By the end of the year, after the U.S. Open tennis tournament, he'll be back playing the late-season Australasian PGA golf events.

"This is a year to really decide which way I'm going to go," Draper said. "It's going to be a difficult year, but I'm looking forward to it."

Draper has one tennis tournament title -- the 1998 Queen's Club event in London -- and has been plagued by knee problems that restrict his movement on the court.

He had been playing golf with a plus-1 handicap for about two years before getting his tour card.

"I think I can compete," Draper said about his upcoming foray into golf. "I don't expect to be winning them, but I think I'm good enough to compete in those tournaments."

Former champion back
Thomas Johansson won a match here for the first time since claiming the 2002 Australian Open title, beating Peter Luczak of Australia in a marathon five-setter Monday that Johansson called a "nightmare."

He missed the 2003 tournament and nearly the whole year after knee surgery, then lost in the first round last year.

"I was very, very nervous in the beginning," he said about Monday's match, which he won 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. "That's pretty much the worst you can play."

But after his early jitters, Johansson settled down. He broke Luczak to open the fifth set, a key point in the match.

"I have to play a lot better than I did today to go far," said Johansson, 29.

He plays another baseliner, Agustin Calleri of Argentina, in the second round.

Another past Australian Open champion, 1995 women's winner Mary Pierce, went out in the first round Monday, losing 6-2, 6-2 to Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press