Williams' Injury A 'Bitter Blow' To Pilot Pen Williams' Injury A 'Bitter Blow' To Pilot Pen
By Pat Eaton-Robb , Associated Press Writer Published on 8/18/2007 in Home
»Professional Tennis New Haven
— The Pilot Pen Tennis tournament got another dose of bad luck on Friday.
Slotted the week before the U.S. Open, a week many players take off to rest, the New Haven tournament lost its biggest star Friday when eight-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams withdrew because of a nagging thumb injury. She still intends to play in the U.S. Open, said Williams' agent Jill Smoller.
“Her status (for the U.S. Open) remains the same — planning on playing,” Smoller said Friday. “She just needs more time.”
Williams accepted a wild-card entry last week into the tournament that begins Sunday, hoping to use it as a testing ground for the U.S. Open. She quickly became the centerpiece of the Pilot Pen's marketing campaign, with tournament director Anne Worcester likening her impact to golf's Tiger Woods and marveling at skyrocketing ticket sales.
“I tried to have a full practice, hoping that my thumb would feel better, but unfortunately, it is still not 100 percent and I am not able to play at the level that I had hoped,” Williams said in a statement. “I am frustrated and extremely disappointed that I won't be able to play at the Pilot Pen.”
Mike Davies, president and chief executive of the tournament, called Williams' exit a “bitter blow.”
“As far as we are concerned it was one of the best things to happen to this tournament in 10 years to have someone of Serena's status to enter,” he said.
Refunds will not be issued, Davies said.
Williams, an eight-time Grand Slam champion who won the Australian Open this year, has not played since hurting her left thumb, wrist and calf during her run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Her elder sister, Venus Williams, won the Pilot Pen four straight years, from 1999-2002, becoming the first woman to win the same tournament four years in a row since Monica Seles did it in the Canadian Open from 1995-98.
The women's field is now headlined by No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova; No. 10 Daniela Hantuchova; No. 11 Marion Bartoli; and No. 17 Elena Dementieva.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport will play doubles, marking her return to the tour since September 2006. She had her first child in June. Davenport is paired with Lisa Raymond in New Haven.
“The goal of mine is to return and play singles,” said Davenport who was holding her two-month son, Jagger Jonathan Leach, in her arms during a news conference Friday. “I feel like I'm going at it with a singles player mentality, even though in this tournament I'm playing doubles, hopefully in some time I'll be able to play singles again.”
There are not many big names in the men's draw, which was made a bit weaker this week when top-ranked British player Andy Murray withdrew because of a wrist injury.
“While some of the top women are willing play the week before a Grand Slam, the top men have not been willing to play,” Worcester said.
There are three top-10 players in New Haven. Connecticut-native and 2005 champion James Blake, ranked No. 8, will be the top attraction, along with No. 7 Tommy Robredo and defending champion Nikolay Davydenko. The Russian, ranked fifth in the world, comes in with controversy swirling around him.
The ATP is investigating suspicious betting patterns on a match in Poland between low-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina and Davydenko, who retired in the third set with an injury. “As far as I know that investigation will not be complete before the U.S. Open, so Nikolay will be playing here,” Worcester said. The tournament begins Sunday and goes through Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.
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By Ap File Photo • Serena Williams, who received a wildcard to the Pilot Pen tennis tournament in New Haven next week, withdrew Friday due to a thumb injury.
By Fred Beckham • Lindsay Davenport holds her son, Jagger Jonathan Leach, as she speaks with reporters Friday afternoon at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, where she will play doubles.