Venus Williams will be seeded number three at the Australian Open later this month, despite not having played a competitive match for six months.
On the day Venus’ sister Serena, the defending champion, withdrew from the tournament, Australian Open officials granted last year’s runner-up a ‘special seeding’, behind Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.
Venus has not played a tour event since losing the Wimbledon final to Serena in July last year, but made a successful comeback this week with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Chanda Rubin at the invitational Hong Kong Challenge.
Ranked 11th in the world, Venus will be seeded ahead of former champions Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport following a recommendation from the WTA.
“Whilst it’s obviously disappointing to hear that Serena hasn’t recovered in time to defend her title, it’s great to see that Venus is back playing competitive tennis after her own long-term injury with an impressive victory in Hong Kong,” said tournament director Paul McNamee.
“I’m sure the crowds will be looking forward to welcoming her back to Melbourne Park after her six-month absence from the tour, and her seeding reflects that she’s obviously back and playing great tennis.”
Venus has not won a Grand Slam title since the 2001 US Open, losing five finals to Serena following that victory in New York.
But Serena withdrew today having not fully recovered from an injured left knee, which was operated on last August, and the participation of both Capriati and Clijsters is still uncertain.
Capriati withdrew from the Hong Kong event with back trouble, while the Belgian injured her ankle in the Hopman Cup earlier this week.
However, she remains in the draw for the adidas International in Sydney, largely because she has a first-round bye giving her extra time to regain fitness.