Venus wins big

The drought is over, and a new love affair has begun.

On Sunday, an emotional Venus Williams profusely thanked thecity of Charleston, S.C., and the fans at the Family Circle Cupfollowing her 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Conchita Martinez.

“I never had so much support in any city I’ve gone to,” Williamssaid as she addressed the Family Circle Stadium crowd. “In fact, Ihad to get used to it.” She also had to get used to Martinez andher ability to mix shots on clay. Once Williams made thoseadjustments, though, the rout was on.

The victory gave the elder Williams sister her first title in 14months and likely vaulted her from No. 16 to No. 13 in the nextWomen’s Tennis Association rankings, which will be releasedtoday.

Martinez dominated Williams in the first set, repeatedly settingup easy winners with a variety of shots from a variety ofangles.

Williams found the solution at the start of the second set. Byattacking the net more frequently, she cut off the angles and putMartinez on the run.

“I think I stopped doing whatever I was doing in the first set,”Martinez said. “She, obviously, started playing better, too, notmaking many mistakes.” Williams went up a break in each of thefinal two sets, making the outcome only a question of time.

For the match, Williams approached the net 49 times, much morethan in any other match during the week. She won the point 71percent of the time.

“That second set, from the first point, I wanted to turn itaround,” Williams said. “I really just started moving in and comingto the net. I was just so disappointed that I had given away thefirst set. I wanted to at least contest the match and not give itall away.” Williams became the third player in the past 10 years towin a Tier I tournament in her first appearance in the event.Justine Henin-Hardenne accomplished the feat at last year’s FamilyCircle Cup. Martina Hingis won in her first appearance at IndianWells in 1998.

Martinez was seeking her third Family Circle Cup title, but evenin defeat, she likely will return to the top 20.

Williams earned $189,000 for the victory.

“I’m coming back,” she said with a smile.

Making her final appearance at the Family Circle Cup, MartinaNavratilova was denied in her bid for an eighth doubles title.

She and Lisa Raymond lost in straight sets to defending doubleschampions Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez, 6-4, 6-1. RuanoPascual and Suarez also won the 2000 title.

Navratilova won 11 Family Circle Cup titles overall, four insingles competition.