NYTimes = registration required
so here's the article for all to read:
Venus Williams Joins Serena on the Sideline
By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows may not be the house that Venus and Serena Williams built, but the sisters certainly helped rebuild the United States Open schedule. Their charismatic rise to the top of the women's game convinced tournament organizers and CBS executives that the women's final belonged in prime time.
Since the shift, they have hoarded that spotlight, facing each other in consecutive finals. But this year, before a ball has been struck, it is already certain the bright lights will belong to others..
Serena Williams, the defending champion, withdrew from the Open on Aug. 1 after surgery on her left knee. Yesterday, it was Venus's turn to withdraw; she cited a strained abdominal muscle that has hampered her this season. It is the first time both sisters will miss a Grand Slam tournament since the 1997 Australian Open.
"I kept thinking I would be able to compete,'' Venus Williams said in a statement released by her management company. "Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. So, with regret, I have to pull out of this tournament and continue my recovery. I'm looking forward to playing in the fall.''
Venus was already in New York when she withdrew and had given television interviews Thursday night in anticipation of playing, but by yesterday afternoon, she had been replaced in the draw by Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.
"For the spectators, it's too bad, but I'm not complaining,'' Srebotnik said. "I mean it would be better if they played, but there are a lot of good players otherwise.''
Six of the last eight Grand Slam events have ended in all-Williams finals. But this will be a no-Williams zone for a change, which may not be a change for the better.
"Of course it's disappointing, especially in New York, where they have had some dramatic matches and moments,'' said Larry Scott, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association. "There's no silver lining once your top stars are injured, but we are fortunate to have a deep group of top players, including the hottest players on the tour: Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who are now battling it out for No. 1.''
Even with the fourth-seeded Venus Williams still in the tournament, Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne were the top two seeded players, and they have dominated the North American hardcourt circuit this summer. Neither Serena nor Venus has played a match since their Wimbledon final last month, when Venus played despite having aggravated her strained stomach muscle in a semifinal victory against Clijsters. Serena won in three sets, with Venus often struggling to move at full speed.
Their lack of tournament play has hurt their rankings, which are determined by counting a player's top 17 results over a 52-week period. But neither sister has come close to playing 17 events during that span, with Serena competing in 11 and Venus in 10. Despite winning five of the last six Grand Slam titles, Serena has slipped to No. 2 behind Clijsters. Venus, a former No. 1 and a two-time United States Open champion, has dropped to No. 5 and could fall further when her ranking points from last year's Open final evaporate after this year's event.
That slide, and her attachment to Grand Slam events, help explain why Venus made such an earnest attempt to play here. Although Venus regularly withdraws from workaday Tour events, she had played in 14 consecutive Grand Slams.
"I've spoken to her in the last couple days,'' Scott said. "She was up in New York and ready to go, and I know she was disappointed. But at the end of the day, she is taking a long-term view of her career, and I'm sure she would not want to do anything to risk her career.''
Venus rested for two weeks after the Wimbledon final on July 5 and only resumed light practices at the end of last month. "A fairly moderate strain takes anything from six to eight weeks to recover from,'' said Michelle Gebrian, the WTA Tour trainer. "If you push too hard in the rehab process, you can take steps back. And no matter how good you feel on the practice court, it's a whole other level in competition.''
The Williamses will not be the only high-profile women's players missing from the draw. Monica Seles has withdrawn because of chronic foot pain and is considering retirement. Another former world No. 1, Martina Hingis, retired earlier this year because of similar foot problems. But Gebrian said the rate of injury on Tour had not increased.
"When more of the top players are hurt, the general assumption is that there are more people injured,'' she said. "In reality, it's the same amount.''