'Last year, it was my first competition for six months and I just feel like it was a great start for me for the new year' Defending champion Venus Williams returns to the arena that re-ignited her comeback last year as she competes in the Watsons Water Champions Challenge in the face of a growing threat of Russian players all eager to make the tournament their own. Last year, the four-time Grand Slam champion kicked off the season in style by beating Maria Sharapova in the Hong Kong final, but the 24-year-old American now faces the most competitive field in the tournament's history - all hungry to get the perfect send-off before the Australian Open. Williams practiced at Victoria Park yesterday with her left thigh bandaged to keep the muscle warm. The world number nine from Palm Beach, Florida, won in Hong Kong in her first tournament appearance after a six-month layoff because of injury and she is hoping for another positive start to the new year. She won tournaments in Charleston and Warsaw in another injury-plagued season that came not long after winning in Hong Kong. Yet, she remains positive about defending her title. 'Last year, it was very exciting for me because it was my first competition for six months and I just feel like it was a great start for me for the new year. Unfortunately I had a lot of injuries right away but this year definitely I would like to repeat because that's what it's all about,' said Williams. 'I don't like to hope. I like to act. I have a great game and great potential. All the players try to play like me and I noticed that every time there's something new I'd like to try, the other players try it too. For me, it's all about creating something new, doing something new and being better for myself.' Williams believes she still has the game, the talent and the temperament to win big this year and her Hong Kong campaign starts tomorrow with a tricky opening match against world number 11, Vera Zvonareva, one of four top Russian players in the tournament. 'I definitely feel that I am hitting the ball very, very well. For me it's just a matter of me executing it in a match. It will be very good for me to play at least four matches here. That's the best part about coming to this event is that you're guaranteed to play matches, matches, matches against the best players in the world and that's what I need now,' said the two-time Wimbledon champion. 'It's exciting coming here knowing that you got a new start and that I am going to be here in Hong Kong. I mean how many people get to work outside and travel the world at the same time?' Williams was also pleased to be back in Hong Kong having been here on at least three other previous occasions. 'It seems that I know Hong Kong now. I know the opportunities available, culturally of course and the shopping, everybody knows shopping [here]. For me now, it is more important as a cultural experience.' Williams is confident that 2005 won't bring her the same fate as 2004 when injuries [lower leg, ankle and wrist] again cut short her season. 'It's important to stay positive,' she went on. 'I know for a fact that I have the same ability as before, even better than before actually. I definitely understand the game of tennis much better. It's just about being able to take the opportunities. For me each match, each point is an opportunity until it's over and it's not over by far.' When asked whether those injury setbacks had made her consider quitting, she replied: 'No. Not until I have to [quit]. I'm tall, strong and I have power and I think I have a long career because of my game style. I feel very good. No problems. I don't want any problems. I don't want any injuries, so I am okay.' Like many who watched the tsunami disaster unfold on television, Williams said she was also saddened by the events in south Asia. Recently in Thailand to play an exhibition match, Williams said: 'It was hard to watch the news and it was hard to know that you were in a country, in an area in which everybody has been devastated. Now I know what it's like to lose things and family members who are important to you. I can't imagine losing everything.' Williams will donate some racquets and clothes to charity in aid of the tsunami victims. 'I guess the players will have a meeting to find out what else we can do. The clothes are the clothes we wear on the court. When you travel you don't have so many personal things. At home, I have a lot. I just keep a few things when I travel.'