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Mar 21st, 2004, 12:31 PM

Mauresmo, Clijsters Cancel

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer

March 21, 2004

KEY BISCAYNE Kim Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo are out of the
Nasdaq-100 Open, joining Justine Henin-Hardenne on the won't-play
list and probably Lindsay Davenport, whose closest advisers will
try one final time to get her to change her mind and come to Key Biscayne.

Failing that, the tournament will lose the top four ranked players
on the WTA Tour, giving the rusty but gifted Williams sisters a
much smoother route through the 96-player draw and giving hope
to a number of rising young Russians that they could make an impact here.

How much of an impact will be clearer after the draw is conducted
Monday afternoon. Suddenly, second-line players such as Anastasia
Myskina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova won't have to go
through four of the toughest players on the women's tour to reach the
final four.

The Mauresmo news Saturday wasn't surprising. She has been off
with a bad back since the Australian Open and last week her
father died after a sudden illness. Clijsters wanted to play and flew
to South Florida on Saturday, hoping to use the next six days to
cure a badly sprained left wrist. But after a consultation with a
medical specialist, she pulled out early Saturday evening.

Henin-Hardenne and Davenport already had declared they would
sit out the next two weeks to rest their bodies.

Mauresmo is ranked No. 3 behind Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters, the
two Belgians, with Davenport at No. 4. Mauresmo and Davenport
might change spots when the new rankings come out Monday, but
there will be no change in the names of the top four.

When the draw is pulled Monday, Serena Williams, returning to
tennis after an eight-month absence because of a knee injury,
will be seeded No. 1 with sister Venus seeded second, Myskina third
and Jennifer Capriati fourth.

But Capriati also has a bad back and, though she reportedly intends
to play, there is the issue of whether the injury could worsen or crop
up again as she tries to win five matches in seven or eight days. One
other top player, No. 9 Chanda Rubin, is recovering from injury. She has
a sprained knee but is expected to compete at Key Biscayne.

Because they're seeded one-two, the Williams sisters will be selected
to opposite ends of the draw and can only meet in a final.

Meanwhile Saturday, a few well-known players filtered onto the grounds
at Crandon Park to begin preparations for the tournament.

Carlos Moya, last year's runner-up, spent an hour training with Ivan

The two-day qualifying tournaments begin Monday. Admission is $5.
The Web site for the tournament is www.nasdaq-100open.com (http://www.nasdaq-100open.com/).
Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (http://www.sun-sentinel.com/)

Mar 21st, 2004, 07:13 PM
Linnie, thanks for the confirmation...