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Williamses' seeds boosted to compensate injuries

5/21/2004

PARIS -- Serena and Venus Williams were both seeded five
spots higher than their rankings by the French Open on Thursday, a
move meant to lessen the effect of their long injury absences.

Serena is seeded No. 2, behind top-ranked and defending champion
Justine Henin-Hardenne. Venus is No. 4, a spot below Amelie
Mauresmo. In the WTA Tour rankings, Serena is seventh, Venus ninth.

"At a Grand Slam, you can do what you want with the seedings,
and this appeared to be the best decision for the tournament and
the players," Roland Garros official Stephane Simian said.

Otherwise, the seedings followed the rankings among the men and
women for the year's second major, where the draw is Friday, and
play starts Monday.

Top-ranked Roger Federer is No. 1 in the men's field, followed
by Andy Roddick, Guillermo Coria, defending champion Juan Carlos
Ferrero, 1998 winner Carlos Moya and 1999 champ Andre Agassi.

In January, the WTA Tour gave both Williams sisters a
"protected ranking," which takes into account their records
before being sidelined by injuries. At the Australian Open, Venus'
first tournament in six months, she was seeded third -- eight places
above her No. 11 ranking.

Neither Williams played a match last season after the Wimbledon
final in July. Venus had a strained stomach muscle, while Serena
had left knee surgery Aug. 1.

Before those injuries, the sisters played in five of the
previous six Grand Slam finals, including at the 2002 French Open.
Serena won all of those matches.

"We felt the Williams' latest results show they are better than
a No. 7 or No. 9, and we took into account their past results at
Roland Garros," Simian said.

Venus won consecutive titles at Charleston, S.C., in April, and
at Warsaw in May. She built a 15-match winning streak before
pulling out of the final of the German Open on May 9, because she
twisted her ankle in the semifinals.

Serena didn't return to the tour until March, and she won the
Nasdaq-100 Open in her first event. She withdrew from her third
tournament with a sore left knee, then played at the Italian Open
after nearly a month off.