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Australian return for Williams duo

Venus sustained her injury in the semifinals at Wimbledon this year.
Venus sustained her injury in the semifinals at Wimbledon this year.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- Serena and Venus Williams, who have been sidelined since Wimbledon, are planning to make their tour comebacks in Australia in January.

The sisters will again be absent when the elite, eight-woman WTA Tour Championships starts in California on Wednesday.

But six-times grand slam champion Serena confirmed on Monday that she would play in the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth starting on January 3.

Venus, meanwhile, said she was targeting the Australian Open from January 19-February 1 in Melbourne for her tournament return.

Reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Serena had knee surgery in August while Venus has been nursing an abdominal tear since the All-England championships in July.

"I'm definitely planning on playing the Australian (Open)," Venus told media while refusing to commit to any warm-up events.

Serena said: "I'm going to play the Hopman Cup. I really enjoyed that last year."

Appearing at the annual WTA Tour Charities Gala and Fashion Show in Santa Monica, the Williams sisters spoke of their frustrations at being sidelined through injury.

Venus reached the 2002 WTA Tour Championships semifinals, losing to Kim Clijsters, who went on to beat Serena in the final.

"We really miss being on the tour," Serena said. "It's such a great atmosphere, it's like one big family.

"Obviously I miss it a lot but don't want to dwell on it too much. Once I realised I couldn't play, I just got focused on doing the fashion show."

Venus, who first sustained her injury at a tournament in Warsaw in April, withdrew from this week's event on Sunday.

"I'm disappointed I couldn't be in the championships but, the way I look at it, some things aren't meant to be," Venus said.

Her absence allows Chanda Rubin to join a line-up that includes Clijsters, French and U.S. Open champion Justin Henin-Hardenne, Jennifer Capriati, Amelie Mauresmo, Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Ai Sugiyama.

This year's tournament features a new arrangement that has the players competing in a round-robin singles format.

The Red Group consists of Clijsters, Mauresmo, Dementieva and Rubin, while Henin-Hardenne, Capriati, Myskina and Sugiyama make up the Black Group.

The top two players from each group advance to next Sunday's semifinals with the final taking place the next evening.

The winner receives a record-tying $1 million.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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