Venus Williams set to return at ASB

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Venus Williams will open her season at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.

The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, now ranked 49th, last played in the September semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

The 33-year-old Williams has been fighting a back injury while also contending with the autoimmune disease Sjogren's syndrome, an incurable condition with which she was diagnosed in 2011.

Williams was due to play in Auckland two years ago but withdrew because of health problems. In a video message Friday she said; "I'm really looking forward to kicking off 2014 on a high note and hopefully some cheers from you all for maybe a win."

Another former No. 1, Ana Ivanovic, also will play in the Dec. 30-Jan. 4 tournament.

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