Doubts grow over Venus' future
May 7 2003
VENUS Williams' tennis future looks more uncertain than ever after her decision to withdraw from the $US1.262 million ($2 million) German Open with a pulled abdominal muscle.
For the second time within a week the elder Williams sister has pulled out of a big money tournament - only a few days ago she withdrew from next week's Rome Masters.
That means that the former world No.1 has played in only four WTA Tour events all year, and has not won a title in more than eight months.
She may now go into the French Open in Paris in three weeks time less well prepared for a grand slam tournament than ever before - if, that is, she has recovered at all.
"It is not good when it is an abdominal strain," Williams said.
"It needs more time but it's not my job to sit at a desk."
This reference may well be an attempt to answer suggestions that the 22-year-old American is now more interested in her interior design business than in her tennis.
The rumours increased when, after suffering one of the worst defeats of her career, to compatriot Meghann Shaughnessy in Miami in March, Williams immediately announced she was taking a month off.
That increased perceptions that since Serena Williams took over from her as the world's leading player during the second half of last year, there has been a lack of drive by Venus to respond.
"My plan is to take each day at a time, have some rest, and be fit again as soon as possible, " Venus concluded, without creating a great sense of optimism.
Her absence means that Justine Henin-Hardenne, the titleholder from Belgium, moves up to second seed here and has a likely semifinal with Amelie Mauresmo, the former finalist from France who moves up to fourth.
It also caused Ai Sugiyama, the 13th seed, to be moved across the draw into the number nine spot - a change which brought ill-luck because she became one of two seeded players to go out on the opening day.
The Japanese player was beaten 6-1 7-5 by Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian, a 19-year-old Swiss player who broke into the top 50 for the first time last year and who now looks likely to make the top 30.
The other beaten seed was Elena Dementieva, the No.10, who only last month won the first WTA Tour title of her career, beating Lindsay Davenport in the final at Amelia Island.
Today, however, she ran into trouble against Dinara Safin, the hard-hitting 17-year-old sister of Marat Safin.
She suffered a strain in her left foot, eventually retiring after losing the first game of the final set.
She has won a title, in Antwerp