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Venus packs off the Russians in HK

VENUS Williams dominated Russia's Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-2 yesterday to give Team Americas a 3-1 victory over Russia at the Hong Kong team exhibition tournament, and finish her only warm-up event before the Australian Open without dropping a set in singles play.

In a rematch of the final of the season-ending WTA Championships in November, which Williams won in three, Zvonareva wasn't able to put up the same fight.

The American broke in the first and third games in the first set to go up 3-0. Zvonavera got one break back in the fourth game, but served four double faults as she lost serve again in the seventh.

Williams continued her good form in the second set, racing to a 4-0 lead after once again breaking Zvonareva in the first and third games. Up 5-2, she closed out the match with a forehand that clipped the net and dropped in.

The seven-time grand slam singles champion also beat top-ranked Serbian Jelena Jankovic and Russia's Anna Chakvetadze in straight sets in this tournament.

Earlier, Argentina's Gisela Dulko came from behind to beat Chakvetadze 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to give Team Americas a 2-1 lead over Team Russia in the best-of-five final.

Both players struggled to hold serve in the first set, with Chakvetadze the first to hold in the sixth game. The world No. 18 broke again in the ninth to take the set.

Dulko broke in the ninth game of the second set and held in the next game to close out the set.

Neither player dropped serve in the third set until Dulko broke through, again in the ninth game, and she served out to take the match.

Jankovic pulled out of the tournament yesterday with illness, leaving the Serbian uncertain about her fitness for the Australian Open.

Jankovic was due to play China's Zheng Jie in a match between losing semifinalists Team Europe and Team Asia Pacific, but appeared on court in a green track suit to inform the crowd at Victoria Park Center Court she had withdrawn and apologize.

"I have been sick for the last couple of days. I feel very weak," Jankovic told the crowd, adding that she has seen a doctor and received medication. She said she had a fever on Friday night and didn't know if she would be fit for the Australian Open. She said she may not even catch a booked flight to Melbourne if she didn't feel well enough.

"It's all individual. Some people might recover in two days. Some people take longer. Who knows?" Jankovic said.


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