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Resilient Williams sisters start 1-2

PARIS — Serena and Venus Williams are the French Open's two top-seeded women, and if it seems as though it has been a while since that was the case at a Grand Slam, that's because it has.

This is the first time the American sisters are seeded 1-2 at a major since the Australian Open in January 2003.

Plenty has transpired in their lives during the intervening years. Each Williams has dealt with injuries, absences from the tour and drops in the rankings, as well as the shooting death of half-sister Yetunde Price in September 2003.

Yet Venus, 29, and Serena, 28, keep returning to the top.

"People have said we would never be No. 1 and No. 2 in the world again," Serena said. "You look, I don't know, 10 years later and … we're still doing the best."

When the French Open begins today at Roland Garros, second-ranked Venus plays Patty Schnyder to start a bid for her eighth Grand Slam singles title.

Among active women, only top-ranked Serena, with 12, owns more major trophies.

"We've worked so hard for so many years, and, you know, ups and downs, and … all kinds of problems and everything. And to be back is cool," Serena said.

Having won the Australian Open, Serena is after her second French title; she beat Venus in the 2002 final. Still, this season has not been perfect for her.

After Australia, Serena missed all of February, March and April because of a bothersome left knee. Since returning, she is 4-2 on clay.

Venus, meanwhile, is 26-4 in 2010 and coming off a run to the final on clay at Madrid. Though this is her 14th consecutive French Open, Venus has made it past the quarterfinals only once, in 2002.

The slow, red clay never has been either sister's preferred surface, mostly because it dulls their powerful serves and groundstrokes. So many consider the women's event to be more competitive than the men's side.

Most everyone believes defending champ Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in the final for the fourth time in five years. Nadal, a four-time French Open champion, has a 31-1 career record in the event. His record 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros ended last year with a fourth-round exit vs. Robin Soderling.

Forget Roland Garros? Gilbert Ysern, general director of the French tennis federation, said relocating the French Open to outside of Paris is being considered because the claycourt major needs more space and modern facilities to remain competitive with the other three Grand Slams. Three options are being examined, including next to Versailles castle and near Disneyland Paris. The French Open has been at Roland Garros since 1928, and the federation has a contract there until 2015. The federation assembly is expected to make its decision in February. The French Open's facilities are on 21 acres, while Melbourne Park (Australian Open) and Wimbledon each have 49 acres. Flushing Meadows (U.S. Open) has 34.5 acres.

fast facts

French Open

Today-June 6; Roland Garros, Paris

Defending champs: Men — Roger Federer. Women — Svetlana Kuznetsova

Today's top matches: Men — No. 5 Robin Soderling vs. Laurent Recouderc, No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Daniel Brands. Women — No. 2 Venus Williams vs. Patty Schnyder; No. 6 Kuznetsova vs. Sorana Cirstea

TV: 5 a.m. Tennis Channel, noon ESPN2

Resilient Williams sisters start 1-2 05/22/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 22, 2010 9:20pm]
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