Ann Worchester Comments On Serena's Withdrawal
Thumb Presses Exit Button
Pilot Pen Loses Serena
By TOMMY HINE | Courant Staff Writer
NEW HAVEN - Anne Worcester knew she was in trouble when she answered her phone.
Two days before the Pilot Pen, the last person she wanted to hear from was Serena Williams or her agent, Jill Smoller.
"I hope you're calling to tell me Serena's going to be at the kids clinic on Monday, but I don't think you are," Worcester, the tournament director, said to Smoller.
Her premonition couldn't have been more accurate.
Nine days after accepting a wild card entry, Williams withdrew Friday from the Pilot Pen because of a left thumb injury.
"Today I tried to have full practice, hoping that my thumb would feel better, but unfortunately it is still not 100 percent and I am not able to play at the level that I hoped," Williams said in a statement.
"I am frustrated and extremely disappointed that I won't be able to play at the Pilot Pen. I've heard only wonderful things about the event and its organizers and was looking forward to playing there."
Williams still plans to play in the U.S. Open, Smoller told The Associated Press.
The eighth-ranked Williams, winner of eight Grand Slam singles titles, was the highest-profile women's player to enter this year's tournament, and her acceptance of a wild card spiked advance ticket sales. Her sister, Venus, is a four-time Pilot Pen champion, but this would have been Serena's first appearance. She hasn't played competitively since injuring the thumb at Wimbledon nearly two months ago.
"There's no positive spin on her withdrawal," Worcester said. "She had every intention of being here. She could have waited until 4 p.m. Thursday to accept the wild card, but she committed a week ago."
Worcester said Williams had already booked her New Haven hotel.
"She had a car service," Worcester said. "We were going to helicopter her to Tweed [Airport]. We even had a bike for [her father] Richard. All the plans were in place."
There will be no refunds, despite the high-profile withdrawal.
"I don't think anyone can argue that there's not a world-class field of both women's and men's players here," Worcester said. "If I didn't have any other entertainment, I'd give them their money back, but we've got plenty of entertainment on both the men's and the women's side."
Williams' withdrawal leaves the women's field with No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.10 Daniela Hantuchova, No.11 Marion Bartoli and No.17 Elena Dementieva. In addition, Lindsay Davenport will play doubles, her first competitive tennis since the birth of her son, Jagger, on June 10.
But the tournament now has lost Williams and Amelie Mauresmo (recovering from an appendectomy), and Andy Murray withdrew a wild card request because of a sore wrist.
Worcester said there are always two variables that she can't control: the weather and injuries.
"You always have a concern that a player coming back from injury may not know about the timing," Worcester said. "It was so heartening that [Williams] committed to the Pilot Pen last week. She could have waited until Thursday at 3:59 and asked for a wild card.
"But the confidence with which she requested the wild card so early made me feel she was sure she was going to be 100 percent. They had every intention to come here. As of [Thursday], we were talking about bicycles for Richard Williams."