Venus Withdraws From WTA Tour Championship--Billie Jean quotes
Venus Withdraws From WTA Tour Championship
Photo By Ron Angle By Richard Pagliaro
Venus continues to orbit outside the WTA Tour. The former No. 1 has withdrawn from this week's WTA Tour Championships due to the lingering abdominal strain that has prevented her from playing since she fell to sister Serena in the Wimbledon final on July 5th. Compatriot Chanda Rubin has replaced Venus in the eight-player field for the season-ending event, which begins Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Rubin joins a singles field that includes defending champion Kim Clijsters, reigning Roland Garros and U.S. Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amelie Mauresmo, Jennifer Capriati, Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Ai Sugiyama.
The WTA Tour Championships is introducing a new round-robin format this year featuring two groups of four players. Clijsters, Mauresmo, Dementieva and Rubin form the Red Group with the Blue Group consisting of Henin-Hardenne, Capriati, Myskina and Sugiyama. The top two players from each group advance to Sunday's semifinals. The semifinal winners will meet in next Monday night's final.
Venus joins sister Serena and Lindsay Davenport on the sidelines. Last month, Davenport underwent surgery to correct the chronic neuroma plaguing her left foot and hopes to return in time for the Australian Open. Serena — the 2001 tournament champion who was runner-up to Clijsters in last year's final — underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in the mid-portion of her quadriceps tendon of her left knee on August 2nd. The Williams sisters are grieving the death of oldest sister Yetunde Price, who was shot to death in Compton, California on September 14th, about a mile from the public tennis courts where Venus and Serena learned to play tennis.
In a conference call with the media last week, Billie Jean King, who has coached the Williams sisters as the U.S. Olympic and Fed Cup captain, said Venus confided the injury continues to cause problems for her during practice.
"Venus has continued to have trouble with that abdominal pull on the left side," King said. "When I did talk to her she said she was upset because she wanted to play so badly. And she said, 'When I go out to practice, something's just not right.' I keep telling her to wait. I've told her since the first time because those things become so chronic — stomach pulls — they are very hard to heal and they take forever to heal for some reason. Serena, of course, you knew would not be able to play because she had that type of knee operation. It's the tendon that connects all your quad muscles and that's naturally huge. I think it's more important for them to get well and start off next year— if they want to play and hopefully they'll want to — and to have a healthy 2004."
Throughout her seven-year pro career, Venus has seldom played an extensive fall schedule. Venus has only played in the season-ending championships twice — reaching the Chase Championships semifinals in 1999 and reaching the final four in L.A. last year before retiring against Clijsters.
King believes the Williams sisters' appeal transcends tennis, race, sex and ethnicity.
"The biggest percentage of people who are interested in our sport and want to play are African-Americans," King said. "And if you listen to young people, and they say, 'Who do you like?' No matter what culture they're from — girls and boys of all color — they'll say, 'Oh, I love Venus' or 'I love Serena.' My niece, who is obviously white, she went as Venus and her friend went as Serena or vice versa to a Halloween party two years ago. It just shows you how young people don't care and aren't prejudiced and biased. It's only the adults that make children prejudiced and biased. So (Venus and Serena) cross over every boundary and they bring everybody together and it's great."