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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007

JAPAN OPEN

Venus dispatches Craybas in straight sets


Staff writer

Venus Williams was planning on spending this week with her feet up on a well-earned vacation in Thailand before she received a late invite to the AIG Japan Open.

A long-held love for Tokyo meant Williams' holiday plans were put on hold and instead she was on court Tuesday giving Jill Craybas the chance to take a break of her own, beating her fellow American 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.

"I had a free week in Asia and I was actually going to go to Thailand on vacation for a week, but the tournament asked me to play and I thought 'I love Tokyo, I love Japan, so why not?' " former world No. 1 Williams said.

The reigning Wimbledon champion has come off the back of a victory over Maria Kirilenko in the Korea Open final on Sunday, a match in which she played with a heavily bandaged right calf.

Williams is playing through the pain barrier as she looks to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson championships, which brings together the top eight players on the WTA Tour.

"This tournament will certainly help (to qualify for Madrid). That's one of the reasons I decided to play here," said Williams.

Williams racked up some valuable points by beating Kirilenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 on the weekend for her third singles title of the year.

She's confident of notching a few more on the hard court at Ariake Colosseum, ideal for Williams' game.

"I love playing fast, hard, aggressive. It excites me," Williams said.

Williams' appearance in Tokyo may well have given the fans a lift after the late withdrawal from the men's draw of world No. 1 Roger Federer, but there was more disappointment early Tuesday when Ai Sugiyama crashed out.

The Japanese No. 4 seed, making her 14th appearance at the event, lost 6-3, 6-3 to China's Yuan Meng.



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