Acura Classic 2005
Sharapova, Serena Williams Are Out; Davenport Doubtful
By Lisa Dillman, Times Staff Writer
Two former Wimbledon champions pulled out Thursday from the upcoming Acura Classic at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, and a third might not be far behind.
Maria Sharapova of Russia cited a lower back strain for her withdrawal. Serena Williams is sidelined by the same injured left ankle that forced her to miss this week's event at Palo Alto. And Lindsay Davenport retired from her opening match in Palo Alto because of a strained lower back, the same injury that hindered her in the Wimbledon final against Venus Williams on July 2.
Sharapova has not played on the tour since failing to defend her Wimbledon title, having lost to eventual champion Venus Williams in the semifinals. She did appear in a Team Tennis match on Saturday in Newport Beach.
The ankle injury has limited Serena Williams to one tournament since the Italian Open in May. She won two rounds at Wimbledon and lost to Jill Craybas in the third, looking seriously out of shape and rusty. Sharapova and Williams still are entered in the JP Morgan Chase Open in Carson, which starts Aug. 8.
Davenport also is entered in Carson, but her plans are in question after she re-injured her back during a practice session earlier Thursday. She then played five games in her match against Anna-Lena Groenefeld, losing all five, before retiring.
Her status for the Carlsbad event, at which she is defending champion, is doubtful. Davenport said her priority was to be ready for the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29, rather than protecting her No. 1 ranking.
"I'll make a decision by Sunday," she told Reuters. "I would say I'm below 50-50. I want to make sure long-term that it ends quicker than it has.
"I still have four or five weeks before New York. That's my main goal, and [if] it means having to pull out of the next three weeks, I'm ready to do it. Hopefully by that time it's not an issue."
Main-draw play begins Monday in the Carlsbad tournament. Still in the field are French Open finalist Mary Pierce, U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Kim Clijsters of Belgium. Wild cards have been given to Abigail Spears and Eleni Daniilidou of Greece with two more to be decided. However, French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne pulled out of the event some time ago, and Venus Williams bypassed Carlsbad and Carson, opting to play in a smaller tournament at Stockholm.
Acura Classic tournament director Raquel Giscafré said she was "very disappointed" by the withdrawals of Sharapova and Serena Williams.
"It's the first time [since 1989] we don't have the player commitment from the tour," she said. "I certainly think the players are in the driver's seat. I think these are legitimate reasons for pulling out. It's normal. They play a lot and there are a lot of injuries.
"But I think the tour should replace the players."
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