Tennis-Williams makes belated Hopman Cup entrance
PERTH Dec 30 (Reuters) - Serena Williams made a belated arrival at the Hopman Cup on Sunday, pronouncing herself ready to go for her first match against the Czech Republic on Monday.
The world number seven missed the United States's first match because of illness, with stand-in Meghann Shaughnessy and Mardy Fish winning their singles matches to seal a 2-1 win over India.
Williams, who will defend her Australian Open title in Melbourne next month, said she was ready to win the Hopman Cup for the second time, having teamed with James Blake to lift the trophy in 2003.
"I just had the stomach flu I was really sick, that's not fun to have but I am fine now," Williams told reporters after a one-hour practice session, having arrived in the early hours of Sunday after flying from Miami via New York and Dubai.
"I'm feeling really good, I recovered really fast.
"I really wanted to come. Luckily Paul McNamee (the tournament director), was able to figure something out (by bringing in Shaughnessy) and it worked out well.
"I was so glad when I heard that she won and Mardy won yesterday. I was really excited. I owe her a big thank you."
Last year, Williams played in the WTA event in Hobart the week before the Australian Open, losing to Sybille Bammer of Austria in the quarter-finals.
Ranked 86, she was given little chance at the Australian Open but stormed through the draw to win her eighth grand-slam title.
This time, though, the American said she was leaving nothing to chance.
"Last year was cutting it close," she said.
"I never really like to play a week before a grand slam. Especially as defending champion, I really want to make sure I am here, trying to get ready. I feel really prepared and am here to win it like everyone else in the draw."
Williams's first match at the Hopman Cup will be on Monday against Czech Lucie Safarova, while she will also have to face local favourite Alicia Molik when the U.S. play Australia in their final group match.
"I played (Safarova) this time last year in Hobart and had an extremely tough match," Williams said.
"I know she's a good player and I'll have to be ready. Then Alicia's going to be a fan favourite, but I'm used to playing fan favourites." (Editing by John O'Brien)
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