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Peers see a tough road for sisters Regaining match toughness to be Williams’ biggest challenge

Los Angeles: Regaining match toughness — both mental and physical — will be the biggest challenge facing Venus and Serena Williams when they return to tennis in January, players at the elite season-ending WTA Championships predicted on Wednesday.

“The most important thing will be to be mentally and physically match tough,” said Jennifer Capriati, who has plenty of experience of returning to the game after a long break from competition.

“You can practise all you want, but there’s nothing like the real thing. To get into the frame of mind of dominating and being confident is tough, because at first you’ll probably be losing.”

Both Williams are skipping the $3 million season finale at Staples Centre recovering from injuries. But they put in an appearance at a pre-tournament fashion show on Monday night and said they expected to be playing in the Australian Open in January.

“It’s been a long road till now, but in general I feel well,” said Venus, who has been nursing an abdominal strain.

“I’m obviously disappointed I couldn’t be in the Championships, but I guess the way I look at it, some things aren’t always meant to be.”

Williams said her recovery from the injury “took a lot longer than I ever would have imagined.”

Serena had knee surgery on August 1. The last time the sisters played was when they met in the Wimbledon Final in July.

Capriati said the down time might turn out to be a boon for the sisters. “It’s not like they were losing that much,” Capriati said. “And for the longevity of the sport and their careers, maybe it wouldn’t hurt (them) to take a few months off.”

Belgian Kim Clijsters, who beat Serena in the final of the tour championships last year admitted the tournament would have a different flavour without either Williams.

But she said she believed the round-robin format among the eight singles qualifiers could produce some fireworks. (AFP)

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