Serena ready to make competitive return to Fed Cup

Updated: April 18, 2007, 5:25 PM ET
Associated Press

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Serena Williams said the groin injury that forced her to retire from a match last week has healed and she'll be able to play for the U.S. Fed Cup team this weekend against Belgium.

This will be Williams' first Fed Cup match since 2003.

The U.S. team, which also includes Venus Williams for the first time since 2005, will be heavily favored against a Belgian team missing its top two players. No. 1-ranked Justine Henin and No. 4 Kim Clijsters declined to participate.

Serena Williams pulled her groin in practice April 9, then retired the next day trailing Chan Yung-jan 5-3 at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. Williams said she took a few days off before she resumed practicing, and she's feeling much better.

"I figured I was going to play this weekend," she said Wednesday. "When I got hurt in Charleston, it wasn't even a second thought in my mind. I just knew I was going to be here."

The loss at Charleston was only the second in 17 matches this year for Williams, who has won the two biggest titles so far -- the Australian Open and the Sony-Ericsson Open. She fell to 140th in the rankings last July because of a long layoff but is now 12th.

The first two singles matches in the best-of-five matchup with Belgium will take place Saturday, with two singles matches and doubles Sunday. The winner advances to the semifinals in July against Spain or Russia.

The Williams sisters decided to participate in the first round in part because Delray Beach is only a 30-minute drive from their home in Palm Beach Gardens. In addition, they enjoy a good relationship with U.S. captain Zina Garrison.

"I love playing Fed Cup," Serena said. "I love playing for the United States. Since 2003, I've had various amounts of injuries. I've been on the tour kind of on and off.

"More than anything, I love playing for Zina. It's another great opportunity for me to play for Zina."

Lisa Raymond and Vania King are expected to play doubles for the Americans against 17-year-old Yanina Wickmayer and 14-year-old Tamaryn Hendler. Kirsten Flipkens, ranked No. 132, and Caroline Maes, ranked No. 227, are expected to play singles for Belgium.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press