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Monday, December 30
Williams tells Hopman crowd she wants a perfect 2003 news services

PERTH, Australia -- Serena Williams skipped into the Hopman Cup on Monday and although her tennis was far from sparkling she treated the Perth crowd to a show-stopping performance off the court.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams had to work out the rust in her game, but not in her confidence.

A gleaming, brilliant diamond in her belly button was the most dazzling element of her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Uzbek Iroda Tulyaganova.

But after clinching match point the American lived up to her celebrity status and shared her big plans with the Burswood crowd.

After blowing kisses to the packed arena, the grinning 21-year-old told the fans she hoped to go through 2003 undefeated.

Even for a player who dominated last season so emphatically a 100 percent record all year would seem a tall order, but Williams sees it as a valid goal.

"I do (want to be undefeated)," she smiled on courtside immediately after her match, "but it is going to be very hard.

"There are a lot of tough players so I am going to try my best and whatever happens, happens. I just try to set myself goals."

A more immediate goal is the Australian Open in two weeks. Last year an 11th-hour ankle injury forced her to withdraw from the opening grand slam of the season.

She went on to win the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open though, and now has her sights locked on the Melbourne Park silverware to complete what she is already calling a "Serena Slam."

"My main dream now is the Australian Open," she said. "I've never been able to win here but I would like to try. Let's just see what happens."

Certainly the 21-year-old believes she is in great shape to win at Melbourne Park.

"So much mental energy for me goes into the grand slams and so at the end of the year I was so fatigued," she said.

"I was just so tired. But now I am all rejuvenated ... I'm all fresh and I've had a long break.

"I'm really excited to be here in Perth because I've never been here and I look forward to having a lot of fun.

"See you, bye-bye," she giggled, before waving to the stands and strolling off court.

With her victory, and won by James Blake, the United States had a 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan in the Hopman Cup.

Blake lost the first set, but rallied to beat Oleg Ogorodov 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 to clinch the match for the Americans with only the mixed doubles remaining, which the Americans won 6-3, 6-1.

In another match, Kim Clijsters and Xavier Malisse rallied to win in mixed doubles and led Belgium to a 2-1 victory over defending champion Spain.

In Belgium's victory, the 19-year-old Clijsters beat Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-1, 6-0, but Malisse was beaten 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 by Tommy Robredo.

In the decisive mixed doubles, Clijsters and Malisse overcame a loss in the first set and a 4-2 deficit in the second to post a 2-6, 7-5, 10-7 victory, needing a super tiebreak to decided the Group A match.

Clijsters will play Williams on Friday when the United States and Belgium meet in the final round-robin match of the tournament.

Clijsters said she believed she is capable of beating the Williams sisters regularly.

"It is just a matter of being a little bit more consistent than I was at the beginning of the year,'' Clijsters said. "If I keep my consistency up I believe I am capable of doing it.''

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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