Saturday, February 25, 2006

Clouds thicken over Williams sisters' future

Clouds thicken over Williams sisters' future

By Richard Eaton

DUBAI (AFP) - Venus and Serena Williams have pulled out of the 1million dollars Dubai Duty Open, further increasing fears that the sisters who dominated the game during the early part of the game will never be the same again.

Venus has withdrawn with a right arm strain which is said to have worsened in training, and Serena declared she had a problem with an ongoing knee injury and did not want to risk it.

"I don't want to compete until my knee feels completely better," said Serena, whose problems are compounded by a related increase in weight which brought jibes from spectators during last month's Australian Open in Melbourne.

This was the only tournament which the former winner of all four Grand Slams has played this year, during which she has so far won only two matches. Serena has not won a tournament since the Australian Open more than 13 months ago.

Venus' predicament seems almost as bad, not having won a match this year, having played one tournament only, and not having won a title since Wimbledon nearly eight months ago.

Venus has slipped to number ten in the world and Serena to 44, which means that she cannot any longer be seeded in good quality events.
However the recently returned former world number one 'Swiss Miss' Martina Hingis doesn't believe that they will retire.

"I can't just see them walking away from the game, no."

But with professional tennis developing all the time and both sisters having time-consuming interests outside the sport, it is becoming harder all the time for them to catch up again.

This may be what Venus has in mind, particularly after appearing to be at a low ebb at Dubai this time last year, and somehow going on to an unexpected triumph in regaining the Wimbledon title.

The Dubai event has however been able to obtain at short notice an excellent replacement.

Amelie Mauresmo, who achieved her life's ambition with her first Grand Slam title at Melbourne a month ago, has agreed to step in and will take over from Lindsay Davenport as the top seed.

Mauresmo is also in the form of her life, having won the WTA year-end championships in Los Angeles three months ago, and winning 21 matches out of 23 up until Sunday's final against Kim Clijsters in the Diamond Games in Antwerp.

"I've achieved everything I wanted in my career," said Mauresmo.
"The Fed Cup, being world number one and winning a Grand Slam. But it's great to be able to come back to Dubai,"

How great remains to be seen, because she should have a semi-final with Justine Henin-Hardenne, who will be playing her first tournament since being unable to complete the Aussie Open final against Mauresmo because of a viral problem, and may be aching to atone for it.

Other withdrawals include Patty Schnyder, the world number nine from Switzerland, and Sevtlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion from Russia.

Another Russian, Anastasia Myskina, moves up to the sixth seeding spot, hoping to regain the form which last year won her the French Open title, but discovering she has a possible second round with Hingis.

That however will depend upon Myskina getting past Zheng Jie, who has taken over as the leading player in a rising Chinese group, and upon Hingis surviving a first round against Sania Mirza, whose victory over Kuznetsova here last year was watched by 38 million people on television in India.

Published : February 20, 2006

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