Venus Williams in doubt for French Open after Berlin default
May 9, 2004
BERLIN (AFP) - Venus Williams is a doubtful starter at the French Open in two weeks time after she was forced to default the German Open final.
The third-seeded American injured her left ankle during the final game of her semi-final win over Croatian teenager Karolina Sprem, which she won 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, and despite treatment Williams was reduced on Sunday to hobbling around on crutches.
The title was awarded to second seed Amelie Mauresmo of France. She also won the title in 2001, after establishing herself by reaching the final as a qualifier in 1998 and then going on to reach the 1999 Australian Open final.
Williams will now return home as planned and try to prepare for Roland Garros, but she has no idea when she will be able to return to the court.
"I'll try for as soon as possible, basically," she said. "I've just got to keep the weight off my leg and see how it goes. There's a lot of swelling, and I'm waiting for the tests to see exactly what the issue is. I'm optimistic it's a strain and not anything more."
The injury is another setback for the former world number one, just as she was building up confidence after a 2003 season that was devastated by injury.
In the same period last year she suffered a stomach muscle injury during the Warsaw final - ironically against Mauresmo. Although she then struggled on until Wimbledon , where she fought though obvious pain before losing the final to sister Serena, she played no more events for the rest of the year.
After her return at the Australian Open in January, a leg muscle injury forced her to default her quarter-final match in Tokyo, and she then withdrew from Antwerp.
Upon her second comeback, Williams won Charleston, and then added two victories in the United States' Fed Cup victory over Slovenia, and followed up by winning the Warsaw event last week with a win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Her default brought to an end to a 15-match winning streak.
"I was and am playing well, and hopefully this will clear up," she said. "If I can get the swelling out there will be less pain, but that takes time. I have two weeks still to try to get myself together. I plan on coming (to Paris) at this point, but I have to get ready first. I don't have to think about it yet."
Even before she injured her ankle Williams received treatment to her left hip, and was playing with her left thigh bandaged. Still, they were only minor inconveniences, she insisted.
"I was fine until this happened," she said. "Obviously I had a couple of issues with my hip, but I could have played through that and then rested it and I would have been pretty much in control."
And she could draw some satisfaction that she is finally a major threat again after a slow start to the season that had some wondering if she could ever again challenge for top honours. Certainly, she did not blame her injuries on overplaying.
"The four weeks did me good. It was exactly what I needed," she said. "Those were the steps I needed to take. I was starting to reach some of my goals.
"I could have gotten there a whole lot faster if I had been 100 percent in the first part of the year, but once I started moving I started moving fast. So if I could have had that progress in the beginning I would be in the top five now easy. No doubt."
Mauresmo had mixed feelings about winning the title, but took satisfaction from the form she had shown throughout the week.
"It's a very strange way to finish a tournament," said Mauresmo. "I saw the end of her match yesterday and I was expecting it wasn't too bad and that she would be able to play, but obviously that wasn't the case. It's a shame for everybody.
"I would rather play some tennis for sure. It's a strange feeling. I don't know if I have the words. It's a mixture, because I want to play, but there's some satisfaction not only because of today's outcome but what's happened the whole week."
With that in mind, she is optimistic as she heads to Rome and then prepares for Roland Garros, where she believes she will be one of the top challengers.
"I know myself better (than in previous years) and know how I have to play," she said. "Yesterday was a very good win. I played a very solid game and was strong mentally and physically in all areas.
"I'm playing pretty well and am one of about five players who can pretend to the title. I think the others are the Williams sisters if they are able to play, and Lindsay Davenport has been playing very well on clay in America. Svetlana Kuznetsova has been playing well too."
Updated on Sunday, May 9, 2004 1:31 pm EDT