WARSAW, May 3 (Reuters) Venus Williams earned her first victory of 2006 today when she defeated Urszula Radwanska 6-3 6-3 to reach the second round of the Warsaw Cup.
The seventh-seeded American, who was beaten in the first round of the Australian Open in her only other match this year, had managed just one win since reaching the quarter-finals of the 2005 U.S. Open after suffering elbow and arm injuries.
The Wimbledon champion could not have asked for a gentler return to the tour, facing a 15-year-old Polish wild card playing her first WTA event. However, she faces a sterner test in the next round against Switzerland's Martina Hingis.
''I was really eager and ready to go. It was exciting,'' Williams told reporters. ''All in all I'm happy. You can't ask for too much more.
''At this stage every match is important to me, to get a rhythm and start dominating hopefully.
''Basically I strained a ligament in my elbow,'' Williams said of her injury. ''It was like a golfers' elbow. It was a really hard place to heal and it just took time.
''I was always practising a lot but I couldn't serve. That was a big problem, so I had to wait until my arm didn't hurt before I could serve.
''I really didn't want any more Australian Opens where I wasn't playing at 100 percent with preparation or health. I just didn't want to come back until I knew I could do that.'' Radwanska, whose older sister Agnieszka upset sixth seed Anastasia Myskina yesterday, competed well but had nothing in her game that could cause Williams any concern.
Williams' greatest challenge came from her lack of match play, and she only occasionally showed glimpses of her best level. Her greater power, though, always gave her the advantage, even though she sometimes lacked accuracy.
Two aces in the opening game gave Williams the start she needed as she held to love, and a deep ball forced a forehand error from Radwanska to earn her a break for 3-1.
Although Williams made a backhand error to concede her own serve in the next game, she broke again to lead 4-2 with a forehand winner, failed to convert a set point on Radwanska's serve at 5-2 but then served out for the set.
Williams broke again to begin the second set but Radwanska levelled at 2-2 when the ball hit the net cord and left Williams with no chance of reacting.
But the 2004 Warsaw champion broke once more to lead 3-2, and after failing to win two break points at 4-2 she took the match with a further break at 5-3 when Radwanska double-faulted.
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