Serena starts rare late-season swing through Europe

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STUTTGART, Germany, Oct 2 (Reuters) Serena Williams starts a swing through Europe in the Stuttgart Grand Prix this week but whether she will still be around for the season-ending championship in Madrid next month is still uncertain.

It is rare to see Williams play in Europe this late in the season but she says the trip is not about racking up points to qualify for a place in the eight-player draw in the Spanish capital.

''If I play my game I'm sure I'll make it but that's not why I'm here,'' world number seven Williams told reporters on Monday, the opening day of the 0,000 indoor tournament. ''I'm just here to play.

''I haven't been in Europe in the fall for a long time and it feels really good.'' Williams, who plans to go on and compete in Moscow and Zurich, has not played since losing to Justine Henin in the quarter-finals of the US Open.

''It was pretty disappointing at the US Open,'' the Australian Open champion said. ''After the tournament I started practising because I didn't do very well.'' She arrived in Stuttgart injury-free but she will have her work cut out to win first prize at the tournament, which is a choice between a Porsche 911 or 98,500 dolalrs in cash.

Eight of the world's top 10 are in the field, including world number one Henin, Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic.

Maria Sharapova, who has a shoulder injury, and Venus Williams are the notable absentees.

REUTERS BJR RK0945

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