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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old Aug 21st, 2003, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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U S Open 2003

US Open 2003: Previewing the Women
by Jason Brown, usopen.org
Monday, August 11, 2003


The 2003 US Open Tennis Championships are the dazzling, demonstratively defining final act of the professional tennis summer tour. Year after year, the US Open remains the benchmark two-week knockout tournament of will for the athletes who walk through the gates of the USTA National Tennis Center in pursuit of a moment in the sun.

The highest level of tennis competition on the planet will peak over two weeks, from the beginning of first-round play on Monday, Aug. 25, to the women’s prime-time final on Saturday, Sept. 6.

Who are the fittest and finest women in the world leading into the US Open? Well, all championship conversations usually begin and end with Serena Williams, but this year, there will be a new champion crowned.

Williams, the defending 2002 US Open women’s champion and winner of two Grand Slams this year, recently had knee surgery, leaving her out of action for six to eight weeks.

After conquering Melbourne at the Australian Open, defeating Kim Clijsters, and capturing Wimbledon, successfully defending her 2002 title against Venus Williams, Serena will be like the rest of us, sitting in the stands.

A variety of homegrown Americans and an oozing talent bed of foreign candidates have equal footing in a women’s draw that is sure to be wide open.

Clijsters has her eyes focused on losing the unpopular distinction of ‘best player without a major championship.’

The 2003 French Open champion, Justine Henin-Hardenne has remarkable toughness that is as strong as her will to win.

And then there’s Venus Williams, who has not won a major title since she defeated her younger sister in the final of the 2001 US Open. Venus, hobbled by injuries, must prove to the rest of the draw -- and herself -- that she can overcome physical obstacles.

Without further pause, USOpen.org sizes up the title chances of the main contenders at the toughest two weeks of tennis in the world, the 2003 US Open Tennis Championships.

The Frontrunners:


Justine Henin-Hardenne – A year after she last played at the US Open, the No. 3 player in the world has added two new credentials: a change in name, from Henin to the newly married Henin-Hardenne, and the title of Grand Slam champion.

Clearly evident after her straight-sets semifinal loss to Serena Williams at Wimbledon, Henin-Hardenne was confounded by the change of surface and pace.

At first struggling to keep up with the rugged game of the power players on tour, particularly that of the Williams sisters, Henin-Hardenne has made major statements on the hard-court circuit, including a title win over Clijsters in California earlier this month.

Still, it’s not clear how the Belgian will fare on the quickest Grand Slam surface, the DecoTurf 2 at the USTA National Tennis Center.

For all the success Henin-Hardenne has garnered as a master of all surfaces, she has never advanced past the fourth round of the US Open, losing in the fourth round to Daniela Hantuchova in 2002.

But the bigger question surrounding the French Open champion will be what kind of reception she receives from the crowd in New York after her controversial match against Serena in Paris.

Before a critical point in the third set of their semifinal, with Serena about to serve, Henin-Hardenne raised a hand to call for time. Combined with the raucous crowd, Serena missed the serve and was penalized without being granted a do-over. Serena never recovered, and the win boosted Henin-Hardenne to her first major title.

Venus Williams – The first question on the tip of everyone’s tongue will be: What is the status of Venus’ recurring abdominal injury, a setback that sapped MPH off her serve and strokes and, with it, her best chance at dethroning Serena in quite some time in the final of Wimbledon in July.

Venus has taken off a considerable amount of time since aggravating the abdominal muscle in the Wimbledon semifinals, an injury that first plagued her in the Warsaw final against Amelie Mauresmo the first week of May.

The absence of Serena should work toward Venus’ advantage. A finalist at the US Open in 2002, it is Serena who has lulled Venus into a championship drought.

As a two-time US Open finalist (1997, 2002), a two-time US Open champion (2000, defeating Lindsay Davenport, and 2001, defeating Serena) and with a sparkling 35-4 career singles record (.900 winning percentage) at the US Open, Venus is impossible to discount.

Playing with the abdominal pain, Venus’ first serve is ineffective, a weakness rather than a weapon. But if her health climbs back to 100 percent, Venus can utterly dominate her service games. Complemented with a fierce return game, a savvy veteran court presence and hard, accurate forehands and backhands, Venus is the No. 2 women’s contender at the 2003 US Open.

Kim Clijsters – A model of proper sportsmanship and consistency, fans of Clijsters are growing impatient for her to take the final step in her progression as a player by winning her first Grand Slam title.

With the recent ascension of Henin-Hardenne and the championship stranglehold by the Williams sisters, Clijsters holds the mantle of being the best player on tour never to have won a major.

Clijsters, the champion at the 2002 WTA Tour season-ending Championships, has superb results three legs into the 2003 Grand Slam tour: a semifinal loss to Serena at the Australian Open, a finals loss to Henin-Hardenne at the French Open, and a semifinal loss to Venus at Wimbledon.

The No. 7 seed at the 2002 US Open, Clijsters lost in three sets to No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo of France in the fourth round. Her best result is a quarterfinal appearance in 2001.

This year, Clijsters’ seed at the US Open will be much higher, possibly a career-first No.1 major championship seed.

Clijsters has shown she can beat the best players in the world. She has defeated Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport three times each and Capriati once.

Against Serena and Venus, Clijsters is a combined 0-4 in 2003, but only Venus stands in her way this opportune time around.

The Contenders

Jennifer Capriati – Coinciding with the meteoric rise of the Williams sisters and the mighty Belgians, Capriati’s ranking has gradually slipped.

A proven winner and always dangerous, Capriati is situated in the second tier of Grand Slam contenders because of her inability to close out three-set matches. No player on tour has been stifled by three-set marathons more than the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Capriati is the only player ranked in the women’s top 10 not to have won a tournament in 2003. The last tournament that Capriati won was in glorious fashion, a Grand Slam triumph at the 2002 Australian Open, where she was the No. 1 seed and didn’t have to play either Williams sister.

A real fan favorite in New York, Capriati has enjoyed the US Open as a home away from home. Every match she plays is jam-packed to capacity.

Currently ranked No. 7 in the world, Capriati figures to get a competitive draw when it’s released the week before the US Open.

Lindsay Davenport – The 1998 US Open champion has reached at least the quarterfinals at Flushing every year since 1996, so she is impossible to ignore when discussing championship contenders.

In 2002, Davenport, who had missed a large chunk of the season with injuries, advanced to the semifinals at the US Open where she was outlasted by eventual women’s champion Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-5.

Plagued in her hall-of-fame career by injuries to her wrist, back, knees and, now, a pinched nerve in her toe, Davenport has said that it will require an operation to remove the nerve at some point later this year.

Playing a fairly limited schedule leading up to the US Open will do Davenport a world of good, preparing herself for the grueling two-week test in Flushing.

Amelie Mauresmo – The weight of trying to win a championship for a Grand Slam-starved nation like France can take its toll on a player, just ask Mauresmo. The star Frenchwoman lost to Serena Williams at the 2002 French Open, 6-1, 6-2, a match that was billed as one of the greatest match-ups in the history of Roland Garros.

After the crushing letdown in front of her home country, Mauresmo tore a rib muscle at the Ordina Open in the Netherlands just before the start of Wimbledon, forcing her to submit a late withdrawal.

To date, she is the only player in 2003 to have defeated both Serena and Venus Williams. In May, Mauresmo clipped Serena in the semifinals in Rome, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. A month earlier in Warsaw, she was named tournament victor after Venus came down with her now-famous abdominal injury in the final.

Mauresmo also holds the distinction of being Capriati’s worst nightmare – the Frenchwoman has beaten the American four straight times, including in the quarterfinals of the 2002 US Open, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3.

Chanda Rubin – Many people thought that Wimbledon would be the breakthrough Grand Slam for Rubin, who was coming off an impressive win in Eastbourne on grass. One of the classiest players on the women’s tour, Rubin has dealt with countless injuries that took away from her success as a younger player.

Now a cagey veteran who excels in both singles and doubles, Rubin is a worthy adversary capable of beating any top-25 player. Rubin’s serve is world class, her strokes strong, deep and accurate, and her tennis IQ unparalleled.

The Russians – Memorize this list of extremely talented Russians, all ranked in the WTA Top 100 -- you’ll need to know their names by the time the second week of the US Open rolls around: No. 10 Anastasia Myskina, No. 15 Vera Zvonareva, No. 17 Elena Dementieva, No. 21 Elena Bovina, No. 25 Nadia Petrova, No. 28 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 41 Lina Krasnoroutskaya, No. 43 Tatiana Panova, No. 53 Elena Likhovtseva, No. 56 Maria Sharapova and No. 64 Dinara Safina.

Zvonareva and Petrova both had their coming-out parties at the French Open, including an upset of Venus Williams by Zvonareva. After knocking out French Open darling Ashley Harkleroad with relative ease in the first round, Sharapova, the shrieking, stunning Russian sensation, took Wimbledon by storm, defeating Jelena Dokic in the third round before losing to Kuznetsova in the fourth -- the 16-year-old’s best Grand Slam result to date.

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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old Aug 21st, 2003, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Wide Open

Who will emerge as new favorite remains to be seen
Posted: Saturday August 02, 2003 11:37 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Without Serena Williams, the U.S. Open women's title suddenly seems up for grabs.

Her sister, Venus, can look forward to the possibility of facing someone else in a Grand Slam final. Lindsay Davenport or Jennifer Capriati could add to their collections of major titles. Kim Clijsters just might claim her first.

Serena's withdrawal Friday because of left knee surgery makes for a distinctly different tournament. And with Pete Sampras all but retired, the Open will be without either defending champion for the first time since 1971 when action starts Aug. 25.

"It's just much more wide open without Serena in the field," Davenport said Saturday at a hard-court event in Carlsbad, Calif.

"It changes a lot. She would be the clear favorite of any Slam that we enter."

Now there's an understatement.

The world's No. 1-ranked player, Serena has won five of the past six majors, a streak that began at the 2002 French Open and extended to Wimbledon last month.

Each time, she beat Venus in the final. The lone blip: a three-set loss to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open semifinals this year.

That run is all the more impressive given that Serena was playing on a bum knee for about a year. Originally diagnosed as tendinitis, it forced her to pull out of the tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late February.

At the time, Serena said: "Usually it doesn't hurt this bad. But it was like this during Toronto last year, and I think I made a good decision and pulled out. I went on to do well at the Open, so I just want to make sure my judgment was correct."

She withdrew from three California tournaments in the past three weeks because of the knee problem and, after the operation, is expected to be out up to two months.

The WTA Tour said Serena was resting at home in Los Angeles with her family and wasn't available for comment Saturday.

"It is a disappointment to have her out of action at the moment. She's arguably one of the hottest athletes in the country right now in any sport and has been on a great roll," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said in a telephone interview from Florida. "The fortunate thing is the operation seems to have gone very, very well. Serena wants to get back to action and save her No. 1 ranking this year."

Despite never having won one of the four majors, Clijsters should surpass Serena in the computer rankings by the Open -- and could do it as soon as Aug. 11. The Belgian enters Sunday's final in Carlsbad with a tour-high five titles this season and has been a semifinalist at all of her 12 tournaments in 2003.

"You don't wish it on anyone, especially her. What she's done for women's tennis is incredible," Clijsters said.

"I know how bad I felt when I couldn't play because of my shoulder, and she has the U.S. Open coming up and is the defending champion. It must be very hard for her."

Both Williams sisters have health problems right now; Venus has leg and abdominal injuries that hampered her at Wimbledon. Neither has played a match since the July 5 final at the All England Club.

While Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne are ranked ahead of her, No. 4 Venus probably will take the label of "favorite" if she's in good shape heading to the year's last major.

In part, that's because Venus won the 2000 and 2001 Opens. And there's this: Setting aside the losses to her sister, Venus has a 51-2 record at Slams since Wimbledon in 2001.

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Serena Williams to miss U.S. Open after knee surgery
Aug. 1, 2003
SportsLine.com wire reports

LOS ANGELES -- Serena Williams will not defend her U.S. Open title this month after undergoing knee surgery Friday.

The world's top-ranked women's player had surgery to repair a partial tear in the mid-portion of the quadriceps tendon of her left knee.

Williams will be out 6-to-8 weeks and is expected to make a full recovery, according to Dr. Rodney Gabriel, who performed the surgery.

Williams has won five titles in her last six Grand Slam tournaments. She beat older sister Venus in last year's U.S. Open final.

This year's tournament begins Aug. 25 in New York.

Williams was resting at home in Los Angeles, her spokeswoman said.

"Serena has suffered from quadriceps tendinitis of her left knee for many years, which has been controlled with medication and physical therapy treatments," Gabriel said.

"She recently developed pain that, although improved with treatment, increased whenever she resumed tennis activities."

On Monday, Williams underwent an MRI, which showed a partial tear in the mid-portion of her quadriceps tendon and surgery was recommended, Gabriel said.

She had withdrawn from three California tournaments in the last three weeks because of pain in her knee.

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Injuries threaten U.S. Open women's field


By Matthew Cronin

LOS ANGELES, Aug 10 (Reuters) - A spiralling injury list on the women's tour has left the U.S. Open in danger of being robbed of many of its major players.

With the final grand slam of the year set to get underway on August 25, champion Serena Williams heads a casualty list that is threatening to leave the Open with a seriously depleted women's field.

Five of the WTA's top eight players and nine of its top 20 competitors have pulled out of tournaments during the past three weeks.

"I don't think I have ever seen it this bad," said former top-five player turned television pundit Pam Shriver.

The JP Morgan Classic in Los Angeles lost its top draw after world number one Williams had knee surgery last week.

Williams is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks and will not defend her U.S. Open title.

Having grown up just a few miles from the tournament's site, the American was counted on to sell tickets at the JP Morgan Classic.

But only 1,814 fans attended Saturday's semi-final between Lindsay Davenport and Japan's Ai Sugiyama in a new stadium that seats 8,000 people.

"In markets like Los Angles and New York, you really need stars to sell tickets," said Shriver.

"I'm really concerned about the U.S. Open because as an American, I like to see our players do well.

"But at this point, the U.S. Open is in danger of waiting to see which Belgian (Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin-Hardenne) will win the title."

Seventh-ranked Jennifer Capriati joined the casualty list during last week's Acura Classic with a pectoral (chest) strain and was forced to retire midway through her second-round match.

Davenport skipped last month's tournament in Stanford with a left foot injury.


DEMANDING SCHEDULE

Next week's Canadian Open in Toronto has also been hit with injuries.

Serena's older sister Venus has withdrawn because of an abdominal strain while Monica Seles, Chanda Rubin, Meghann Shaughnessy, Alexandra Stevenson, Patty Schnyder and Anna Pistolesi are the other members of the top 30 to drop out.

Venus has not played since losing the Wimbledon final to Serena in early July and her next scheduled tournament is the U.S. Open in New York.

Eighteen-times grand slam singles winner Martina Navratilova blamed the injuries on the players' demanding schedule.

"If you look at the number of tournaments people play now and average it out against the number of tournaments the top 10 played 10 years ago, they probably play five more tournaments a year now," said Navratilova, who was playing doubles in Los Angeles with Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"That's a lot of matches and time you're not taking care of your body or recovering from injuries.

"Serena and Venus have pulled out of more tournaments in one year than I did in my whole career.

"I don't think they play enough and the other top players play too much. The other top players play between 16 and 18 tournaments and that's too hard mentally and physically."


OVER TRAINING

Along with Seles, who has not played competitively since her first-round loss at the French Open in May, Russian pin-up Anna Kournikova has also been out of action for months.

A long-term back injury could also rule out Kournikova from the U.S. Open.

Among the 10 withdrawals from this week's JP Morgan Classic were defending champion Rubin (shoulder injury), former winner Seles (foot problems), Russia's Vera Zvonareva (elbow injury) and American teenager Ashley Harkleroad (elbow injury).

Capriati suspects over training has contributed to the spate of injuries.

"It's a long season and, with the grind of the tour, there's not much time to take a break, let alone recover" said Capriati.

"I don't feel like I can sit back and not try to play. Plus, the game is so much more powerful now and maybe some of the girls are over-training trying to get stronger."

Having suffered a plethora of injures over the last three years, former French Open champion Mary Pierce said: "I was over-training all the time.

"You have to learn that you can only do so much in practice. I probably hit three times as many balls than any other girl from age 10 to 18. Now I have no desire to do so."

Navratilova added: "The kids play too much on hard courts at an early age and their joints suffer.

"When the joints get messed up, the muscles follow. Most tennis injuries are related to joints because of the hard pounding. Tennis is a very hard sport on your body."

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old Aug 21st, 2003, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Venus' health key factor
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com


The big story of the summer is Serena Williams is out following surgery. No defending champ. It's the first time since 1994 that an American woman wasn't the top seed. It's a big void that can be filled if everyone stays healthy and plays well, but that's the big question.



Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Amelie Mauresmo, Jennifer Capriati and Chanda Rubin have all been injured this summer. It opens it up the draw for players who are playing well but flying under the radar screen such as Ai Sugiyama, Maggie Maleeva or Patty Schnyder. It will depend on who gets their game in shape and gets on a roll heading into Labor Day weekend.

This is the first time that Kim Clijsters has ever been the No. 1 seed in a major. But the pressure of trying to win her first major is much bigger than the pressure of being the No. 1 seed.

Countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne is seeded second. If you had told me 10 to 15 years ago that two Belgians would be No. 1 and 2 at the U.S. Open, I would have said get out of here -- it's unheard of. I've probably only met four professional Belgian tennis players in my life.

You've got seven Russians who are seeded in the top 32: Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, Elena Bovina, Nadia Petrova, Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Svetlana Kuznetsova. That's impressive, and it's the same amount as the United States. So 14 of the 32 seeds are from the United States or Russia.

But really it's the questions about the players' health that takes the certainty out of having a blockbuster last major. If it stays hot and people aren't match tough, they'll struggle even more.

Venus is the wild card. She hasn't played since Wimbledon. If she comes in healthy and looking good the first week, then she's the favorite even though she hasn't won a major in two years.

Davenport's toe problems crop up unexpectedly. Davenport and Venus are the only two who have won here before. If her toe withstands the pressure of seven matches in 14 days, she's got a good chance to take this thing.

Even Capriati has a shot. It'd be just like Capriati to do the unexpected again. She is the Sampras going into the U.S. Open this year. It's been 19 months since she has won a championship.

Otherwise, either one of the Belgians could win it. Clijsters has not had outstanding success at the U.S. Open. It's the only major where she hasn't been to at least the semifinals. She's got a pretty good draw, although American Laura Granville could cause some problems. But it's Kuznetsova in the third round who will be her first test and let us see how she's handling the pressure.

Without Serena, Davenport, Capriati, Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters, Venus or Mauresmo all have a chance to win. All of them have their issues they've been dealing with psychologically. Henin-Hardenne has perhaps the most confidence to win. But if Venus is healthy, she could come out of her Slam slump.

But really it's going to come down to survival of the fittest.

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Breaking down the Women's U.S. Open draw
Posted: Thursday August 21, 2003 3:34PM; Updated: Thursday August 21, 2003 4:05PM





Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim peers into his crystal ball to reveal the fate of the top 16 men's and women's seeds for the 2003 U.S. Open. Scroll down to see the first-round matches you shouldn't miss, some darkhorse candidates to advance to Week 2, and his championship predictions.

Golden opportunity has become an A-list sports cliché. But frankly we can't think of a better way to describe the women's draw. With Serena Williams out, Venus Williams ailing and Kim Clijsters reeling, the ladies' field is uncharacteristically open. On paper, two-time champ Venus Williams is a likely favorite. But on paper, she doesn't have an abdominal muscle so strained that it has prevented her from playing since Wimbledon. Either Lindsay Davenport or Jennifer Capriati could seize the moment and cement her legacy with a fourth Grand Slam title. The feisty Justine Henin-Hardenne just as easily could bag a second major this year. But to our way of thinking, the truancy of Serena Williams will enable a Grand Slam virgin -- Amélie Mauresmo or Clijsters -- to enter the winner's circle for this first time.

1. Kim Clijsters: The new No. 1 will do herself -- and the credibility of the WTA Tour rankings -- a world of good if she can bag her first major. But will the mounting pressure coupled with the crisis her boyfriend is facing be too much to bear? Unlikely to face much opposition until the quarters. By then, it's up to her.

2. Justine Henin-Hardenne: Odds-on favorite to win her second major of 2003, particularly after such a strong summer.

3. Lindsay Davenport: Your exemplary career is winding down and you've been admirably candid in admitting as much. One-half of your two-headed nemesis is out of the draw; the other has been slowed by a stomach injury. You're playing on your surface of choice in your home country. Sounds like the makings of a great last hurrah ...

4. Venus Williams: The two-time champ is a favorite -- seedings be damned -- now that Little Sis is on the sidelines. But her midsection remains a big question. Ought to cruise through early rounds, thanks to the kindness of the draw. But what will happen when she faces a real test?

5. Amélie Mauresmo: As ever, there are lingering questions about her health and fitness. But Mauresmo's name unquestionably is on the list of candidates who could take huge advantage of this quirky, Serena-less draw. Says here the winner of Mauresmo's projected quarterfinal throwdown with Clijsters goes on to take two more matches.

6. Jennifer Capriati: Even before her shoulder injury, the Capster hadn't really found her form in 2003. But like so many, she has to be energized by the absence of the Williams juggernaut. Plus, she tends to play her best tennis on the biggest stages. If she can stay healthy, she ought to be clear until the quarters.

7. Anastasia Myskina: Has turned into a very hot-and-cold player. Shouldn't lose before the middle weekend, but hasn't shown much mettle against higher-ranked players.

8. Chanda Rubin: Yet another player who has a gilded opportunity. But like so many others, she has lingering health concerns. If she gets hot, it's not hard to see her draw opening up. At least until she likely meets Davenport for a spot in the semis.

9. Daniela Hantuchova: She can salvage a thoroughly disappointing year with a strong showing. Only problem is that she is still in need of a physical upgrade and, not unrelatedly, a surge in confidence. Hantuchova is too young and too talented to write off, but this year pretty much has been what we euphemistically call "a learning experience."

10. Magdalena Maleeva: One of those players who could slither through to the quarters. But no further.

11. Elena Dementieva: Overdue for a strong Slam showing the way Kevin Costner is overdue to make a decent movie. A semifinalist three years ago, she hasn't come close to replicating that feat. Could this be the year?

12. Conchita Martinez: The Cheetah quietly has put together an awfully nice year. Her days of contending for Slams are in the past. But if I'm, say, Rubin, I ain't happy she's in my segment of the draw.

13. Vera Zvonareva: Have to wonder about her mental state after squandering a 6-0, 5-1 lead to Anna Pistolesi in New Haven. Probable second-round match against Ashley Harkleroad could be a good one.

14. Amanda Coetzer: Her best days are long behind her. But, in that Ai Sugiyama kind of way, she has the potential to spring an upset against the right opponent.

15. Ai Sugiyama: Speak of the devil. See above.

16. Elena Bovina: A bit of a headcase but, as the adage goes, you can't teach size. Plus, she had a nice run here last year.

LOWER SEEDS WORTH WATCHING

17. Meghann Shaughnessy: Results have tailed off since the spring, but she's at her best on hard courts and has played well in Queens against higher seeds.

19. Nadia Petrova: Constantly battling the injury bug, but her game is a good one. Plus, she likely won't face a top-100 opponent until Round 3.

25. Eleni Daniilidou: Rarely brings the goods against better players, but has a lot of potential still waiting to be tapped.

26. Lina Krasnoroutskaya: Play the hot hand.

30. Magui Serna: A baroque ballstriker who quietly has put together a nice year.

DARKHORSE NATION

Maria Sharapova: Provided she isn't overwhelmed by the occasion (an the obligatory New York Post story on her grunting), only a handful of players in the field should be able to beat her. Too bad Capriati -- her likely third-round foe -- is among them.

Mary Pierce: No longer a threat to win majors, but she's still dangerous because of her sheer power.

Alicia Molik: The faster the courts, the better her results.

FIRST ROUND MATCHES TO WATCH

Shaughnessy vs. Karolina Sprem
Hantuchova vs. Marion Bartoli
Pierce vs. Katarina Srebotnik
Dinara Safina vs. Carly Gullickson

PREDICTIONS
Semifinals: Clijsters vs. Davenport, Williams vs. Henin-Hardenne
Final: Clijsters vs. Henin-Hardenne
Champion: Clijsters

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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old Aug 25th, 2003, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Venus Williams Withdraws From U.S. Open

21 minutes ago

By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Venus Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open on Friday because of a stomach muscle injury, leaving the year's final Grand Slam tournament without both Williams sisters.

The tournament begins Monday in New York, where Williams has been practicing.

Serena withdrew after having left knee surgery Aug. 1 and will be out 6-to-8 weeks.

Neither sister has played a match since Serena beat Venus in the Wimbledon final on July 5, when Venus was hampered by leg and stomach muscle injuries.


Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Venus to join sister Serena on U.S. Open sidelines Aug. 22, 2003
SportsLine.com wire reports

NEW YORK -- Forget an all-Williams final. The U.S. Open will be a no-Williams affair.

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Venus Williams joined younger sister Serena Williams on the sideline for the year's last Grand Slam tournament, withdrawing Friday because of the abdominal injury that has bothered her since May. The U.S. Open, which starts Monday, will be the first major without a Williams since the 1997 Australian Open.

It also will be a test for a sport that has benefited from the sisters' on-court skills and off-court popularity.

"It's a shame for the fans. Serena and Venus have been the ones dominating the Slams the last few years," 1998 Open champion Lindsay Davenport said. "It's always exciting, especially for the New York crowd, to have at least one of them there. Now both of them are gone."

Neither has played since Serena beat Venus for the Wimbledon title July 5, the fifth Williams vs. Williams championship match in the past six Slams, all won by Serena. She pulled out of the U.S. Open on Aug. 1, after left knee surgery, leaving the tournament without either defending singles champion (Pete Sampras is retiring).

Venus, 23, has been in New York, practicing and testing her condition.

"I kept thinking I would be able to compete," she said Friday. "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 again in the fall."

A Williams has won the past four U.S. Opens, with Venus lifting the trophy in 2000-01. When she beat little sis in the 2001 final, it was the first time in 117 years that siblings played for a Grand Slam title and the first time two black players stood at opposite sides of a net to decide a major singles title.

That match also was the first women's Grand Slam final televised at night -- and it drew higher ratings than a Top 25 college football game on another network.

"The Williams sisters, not the women's game, are the reason the women's final is in prime time," said four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe, now a TV analyst.


Venus Williams has not played since losing to sister Serena in the Wimbledon final. (Getty Images)
Now the question is: Can the sisters withstand the grind of the tour?

Kim Clijsters of Belgium recently replaced Serena at No. 1 in the WTA Tour rankings, despite never having won a major. Clijsters benefits from having played 15 events in 2003, reaching the semifinals at all but one.

In contrast, Serena has played in seven tournaments, Venus six.

So Serena dropped to second in the rankings, while Venus -- also a former No. 1 -- fell to No. 5, her lowest spot since July 2000.

"Obviously the tour is very disappointed that neither Venus nor Serena is going to play in this year's U.S. Open," WTA Tour spokesman Darrell Fry said. "But from our perspective, Venus and Serena's health comes first, and we want both of them to take as much time as they need to recover from their injuries so they can get back to the tour and play as long as they want to play."

Venus first showed signs of her stomach muscle injury during a clay court tournament in Warsaw, Poland, where she quit during the May 4 final. She curtailed her preparations for the French Open and was upset by Russian teenager Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round -- her earliest exit at a major in two years.

Serena, 21, also faltered in France, her 33-match Grand Slam winning streak ending in the semifinals against eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne.

At Wimbledon, which she also won in 2000-01, Venus looked dominant until the strain flared up during her semifinal against Clijsters. Wincing after serves and doubling over between points, Venus managed to win in three sets.

"As a rule, I never play with pain," she said at the time. "I generally retire immediately. I've never been taught to play with pain. My parents always told us to put the racket in the bag, go off the court."

Bothered by that injury and a bad left leg, Venus was far from top shape for the Wimbledon final. After, she said she felt she had to play because, "Serena and I, we've been blamed for a lot of things." The family drew jeers at a 2001 tournament in California after an injured Venus withdrew before a semifinal against Serena.

So the top-seeded Clijsters and No. 2 Henin-Hardenne move into the roles of U.S. Open favorites, in part because others had recent injuries, too: Davenport (foot), Jennifer Capriati (shoulder), Chanda Rubin (shoulder), Amelie Mauresmo (back).

"The Belgians are still the favorites, but you've got to count on the Americans. We're excited, we want to do well, Jennifer and myself," Davenport said in New Haven, Conn., where she's playing a tuneup tournament.

"It's definitely a lot more wide open."



AP NEWS
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Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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Venus struggling for fitness

Venus Williams admits she is "not 100%" going into next week's US Open but is determined to continue her family's successful run at Flushing Meadows.
With her sister Serena unable to defend her title due to injury it will be left to Venus to try and secure a fifth straight US Open title for the Williams family.

But the number four seed continues to be hampered by the abdominal injury that ruined her chances of making the Wimbledon final against Serena a competitive affair.

"I'm not really 100% at this point, but I think I have a really good chance at the Open no matter what the circumstances are," said Venus.

"So, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be ok.

"It's been four years since Williams has been on the trophy at the US Open and it has really been a dream come true.

"When I hold it up I see the S, the V, the V, the S, and it's what we dreamed about, so dreams are coming true."

Serena won her first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in 1999 and regained the title last year after Venus won in 2000 and 2001.

And Venus is hopeful that her younger sister will be in New York to lend her support.

"Yeah, she definitely wants to come," said Venus.

"She told me she's going to be there in the stands, and I definitely need her her and my family to get some support, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed there, too."

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U.S. Open will be grand snoozer

No Williamses,
no Sampras;

so why should
we care about it?

Serena Williams won her fifth Grand Slam title in six attempts at Wimbledon, but she will miss the U.S. Open as she rehabilitates from knee surgery.


COMMENTARY
By Amy Potter
NBCSPORTS.COM CONTRIBUTOR

Aug. 22 — The U.S. Open has taken a turn for the worse, and it hasn’t even started. For the first time since 1971, the Grand Slam tournament is without either defending champion, and both Williams sisters are out with injury. If Open officials were hoping for exciting, entertaining finals, they have an uphill battle. This thing could be a monumental bore.


PETE SAMPRAS, THE reigning men’s champion, won’t be reporting to New York next week. The star officially put away his professional racket on Friday, announcing his retirement.


U.S. Open

Serena Williams withdrew in late July after realizing that a reoccurring left knee injury would require surgery. Venus followed her on the sidelines Friday, pulling out because of a lingering stomach muscle injury.

Without Serena and Venus, the dynamic of the entire championship changes dramatically — and not for the better. Without the sisters — the most exciting thing to happen to tennis in years — there is no reason to watch the women’s championship match.

“It’s just much more wide open without Serena in the field,” Lindsey Davenport said when she found out Serena would sit.

“It changes a lot. She would be the clear favorite of any Slam that we enter.” That’s an understatement to say the least.

The world’s No. 1-ranked player, Serena has won five of the past six Slam tournaments — all against Venus — in a streak that began at the 2002 French Open and extended to Wimbledon last month. Her only loss came in this year’s French, when she was defeated in an emotional matchup against Justine Henin-Hardenne.

And there is absolutely no one who can fill Serena’s shoes.
The top seeds at this year’s Open are the feisty and talented Belgian duo of Kim Clijsters (No. 1 seed) and Henin-Hardenne (2). While both are undoubtedly top contenders, they’re a bore. While all of Belgium would eagerly flip to a Clijsters-Henin-Hardenne final, the rest of the world could care less.

Both youngsters have done little to capture the attention of the American tennis public. They aren’t outspoken and not nearly as eye-catching as tennis’ most famous foreigner, Anna Kournikova. They’ve thrown taunting words back and forth, but have never declared a rivalry.

Without Serena and Venus, the Americans have little more to offer. Lindsay Davenport is approaching retirement and Capriati has managed to stick around, but can’t shake things up.

All of a sudden, watching the men’s game isn’t looking too bad, even if Pete isn’t around.

This summer has been a snoozer for men’s tennis, but for once the men have the chance to steal the show at the U.S. Open. But only two scenarios will get non-tennis aficionados to watch.

If Andy Roddick — the young, attractive and emotional American — can make it to the finals and secure his first major title, you can be sure that viewers will watch.

If Andre Agassi can battle to victory despite aging joints, he’s a sure attention-getter. In light of Sampras’ recent retirement, it would be quite a story if his top American rival, Agassi was able to win a major at such a prime age.

U.S. Open organizers had better cross their fingers and hope that at least one, if not both, of these players make it to the finals. Because at this major tournament, no one is going to be watching, or caring, about what’s going on in the women’s matches.

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Venus, Serena missing U.S. Open but make scary promises

Aug. 27, 2003
SportsLine.com wire reports

http://www.sportsline.com/tennis/story/6597685

NEW YORK -- As the U.S. Open unfolds without the injured Williams sisters, here are some troubling thoughts for the other top players to ponder:

Venus Williams plans to play another 10 years, and wants little sis to do the same.

And Serena Williams vows to return to the tour "on a mission."

The winners of nine of the past 13 Grand Slam titles talked Wednesday about their futures in the sport, their other interests and how they are perceived, spending about 20 minutes with a group of reporters at a Manhattan hotel.

Serena, 21, pulled out of the Open on Aug. 1 because of surgery on her left knee. Venus, 23, withdrew last week with a stomach muscle tear that hampered her since May and flared up during the Wimbledon final.

"I'm going to be a better player for sure when I come back," Serena said. "My knee is going to be better than it's been ever in my career, which is really exciting, and ... I'm going to be mentally relaxed. I'm going to be stronger, and I'm going to be angry.

"I'm just going to take a different attitude. I'm going to take the Mike Tyson approach," she added, leaning forward and laughing loudly, before adding -- just in case there were any doubts -- "No, I'm just kidding."

They are in New York for a few days and some TV appearances, including Serena's on the MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday night.

On the ride from the airport into the city, Venus felt a pang of regret that she couldn't be on the court.

"I was hoping they would move the Open back a few weeks so that way I could be ready, but nobody liked the idea," Venus said, smiling at her own joke. "It's definitely hard not to be in the competition."

Neither is sure when she will play next; they mentioned the tour championships at Los Angeles in November as a possibility.

The U.S. Open, which began Monday, is the first major since the 1997 Australian Open without a Williams, yet much of the talk at the National Tennis Center has been about them.

As Jennifer Capriati put it: "Whoever's going to take this title, there's going to be an asterisk next to it, saying, 'Oh, but the Williams sisters weren't here.'"

The sisters met in the final at five of the past six Slams -- Serena won each -- and one or the other won each U.S. Open since 1999. When the topic is women's tennis, invariably the conversation turns to a single family.

And, both sisters noted, it's not always flattering.

"When we weren't winning the Slams, it's like: 'Well, when are they going to start winning?' OK -- we started winning. 'Oh, it's bad for tennis.' It's not really bad for tennis at all, because we're always on the covers of all kinds of newspapers, magazines, everything," said Serena, wearing high heels and a black-and-white dress for which Venus picked the fabric.

"Now that we're not here, it's 'bad.' It's not bad. There are still a lot of good players in the field, there's a lot of good personalities. ... There's a lot left, as well, without us," Serena added, then paused.

"Without us, it is a little dry. I would be dishonest if I said it wasn't. But at the same time, I'd be dishonest if I said it was no fun watching tennis. I mean, not everyone loves me."

Serena's hoping the camera loves her. With help from the William Morris agency, she's accumulating acting roles, including a movie called Beauty Shop and a part in the Showtime drama Street Time that she'll film next week in Toronto.

"I love tennis, and it's always my first love, and I really, really miss it," Serena said. "But in a way, it is kind of a relief ... this actually gives me a chance to do some other stuff.'"

Off-court pursuits keep the sisters busy. Both have designed clothes, and Venus has an interior decorating company.

"We added a lot to tennis, whether it was fashion, whether it was serves or groundstrokes or speed or fight or whether it was controversy that we were never really part of," Venus said.

Someone pointed out she was speaking in the past tense, and Venus smiled.

"I'm not going anywhere. I like what I do. I'm not retiring before 33," she said. "I've thought about that already. I'm not giving up my day job."

Their father (who is prone to exaggeration) has said he thinks his daughters will quit tennis in a few years.

Venus said Wednesday she wants to retire at the same time as Serena. Told of her sister's comments, Serena said: "I feel I have another 10 years in me, for sure. ... I like playing, I really enjoy being out there and making people mad."

She recently relinquished the No. 1 ranking to Kim Clijsters, who hasn't won a major but plays about twice as often as the sisters. Serena said Clijsters deserves to be No. 1, adding, "It will be fun to try to work my way back there again."

But she won't alter her relatively limited schedule.

"I'm not going to play every week. I'm just not going to do it, because I want to do different things," Serena said.

She giggled as she talked about her surgery, mentioning that 1998 Open champion Lindsay Davenport sent flowers. The knee bothered Serena for a while, and she felt something while practicing for a tournament last month. The real pain came later that day, when she bent down to pick up an earring. After consultations with six doctors ("I'm really thorough -- I don't like needles"), Serena had the operation.

"I can say that I don't want to come back too fast and ruin anything," she said, "but I don't want to come back too slow, because I really want to be back out there."

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Williamses Test a Life Without Any Games
By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY

Missing the Williams sisters at this year's United States Open? No need to worry. You should still have ample time to enjoy the free-swinging spectacle provided by tennis's first family.

Dismissing concerns about motivation, physical ailments and the potential lure of outside interests, Venus Williams said yesterday that she planned to play for 10 more years. Her younger sister, Serena, later indicated that 10 years sounded like a nice, round and accurate expiration date for her own career, too.

"Oh, definitely, I'm not going away," said Venus, who turned 23 in June. "I'm not retiring before 33. I've thought about it already. I'm not giving up my great job. I like it. I'm fortunate. I'm blessed, and I love being out there."

For now and perhaps quite a few weeks more, she and Serena are on forced vacations, recovering from injuries as their customary foils and rivals go about their sweaty business in Flushing Meadows. While top-seeded Kim Clijsters was preparing for her second-round match yesterday, which she won, 6-1, 6-1, and while Roger Federer and Lindsay Davenport were preparing for matches later in the day, which they won, the Williams sisters were in Midtown, making the rounds of television programs and giving separate interviews to a small group of reporters in a 22nd-floor hotel suite.

The Williamses have talked little in public of late, and there was much to talk about, which meant that once again at this through-the-looking-glass Open, the nonparticipants generated more buzz than the participants. If it was not the retiring Pete Sampras on Monday, it was the recuperating Williamses on Wednesday, and it was not lost on the sisters, who have grown accustomed to complaints that their string of all-in-the-family Grand Slam finals was hurting the game. Now that they are not playing at all, they hear that it's hurting the game, too.

"You can't win either way with us," Serena said. "I think, obviously, Venus and I bring a huge aspect to tennis, but I still think there's a lot left in it as well without us. But without us, it is a little dry. I would be dishonest if I said it wasn't, but at the same time it would be dishonest to say there is no fun watching the tennis. Not everyone loves me. People like other people."

Venus, who withdrew from the Open on Friday, is still recovering from a badly strained stomach muscle that first forced her to retire from the final of a tournament in Warsaw in early May and then slowed her progress at the French Open and at Wimbledon. "Maybe I shouldn't have played the French Open and just taken more time to rest," she said.

Serena, who has won five of the last six Grand Slam singles titles, had left knee surgery in Los Angeles on Aug. 1 to repair a partial tear in the quadriceps tendon, but she arrived in the lobby of the hotel in high heels and walking with only a slight limp.

Asked if her doctor would approve of such footwear less than a month after surgery, she said, "I don't know if he'd approve, but I only walked a few blocks, and they are not that high: only three inches."

Serena has been playing with occasional knee pain for several seasons, but she said she reached a crisis point in July while preparing to leave home for a tournament in San Diego. "It was a sudden action that made it go out," she said.

It was not the sort of sudden movement that typically gets a tennis star in trouble. Instead of reaching for a wide forehand or an overhead, she was reaching down for a pair of earrings. "I was bending down," she said. "And I was like, 'O.K., something is not right.' "

Serena, who said she had stopped practice earlier that day because of discomfort in the knee, made every attempt to avoid surgery.

But she said that the six physicians she consulted all gave her the same answer. There is less certainty about when she will return to the Tour. It might not be until next season, and though she declined to give a specific date, she also made it clear that her nontennis schedule is well booked with acting and other engagements this fall.

"I love tennis," she said. "It's always my first love, and I really, really miss it, but in a way it is kind of a relief to see that, wow, this actually gives me a chance to do some other stuff, some acting especially."

Serena might be the defending champion, but for now, Venus, a former champion, sounds as if she misses the game and the United States Open more. "I was coming in last night, and I was passing by the stadium, and I could see the big screen," Venus said. "It was just: 'I want to be out there. I want to play the night match. Sign me up.' I was hoping they would move the Open back a few weeks so that way maybe I could be ready, but nobody liked that idea."

Venus said she had served only lightly in practice since wincing through her three-set defeat to Serena in the Wimbledon final, but though she is entered in the Moscow tournament that begins Sept. 29, she does not plan to rush back this time.

Serena, who has also not competed since the Wimbledon final, proudly said she did not cry before or after surgery. But she has been practicing her crying during her layoff, preparing for a scene in an episode of the Showtime series "Street Time." She will play a reformed gang member, and the role has been expanded because she, for now, no longer needs to juggle tennis with acting.

She is also no longer No. 1 in the computer ranking, having been passed by Clijsters earlier this month. Though Clijsters has not won a Grand Slam singles title, Serena said she deserved the No. 1 spot.

"She's playing every week," Serena said. "And she's winning almost every week she plays. It's hard not to be No. 1 when you play that much."

Nonetheless, Serena, who has played only 11 events in the past year, would like to see reform of the ranking system, which counts a player's best 17 results over 52 weeks. But even if the system remained untouched, Serena said she was confident that she would regain her former dominance. "And I'm going to be a much better player because I'm going to be mentally relaxed; I'm going to be stronger, and I'm going to be angry," she said.

Angry? "I'm just going to take a different attitude: take the Mike Tyson approach," she said.

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The Show Goes On, at and Away From the Open

By Rachel Nichols
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2003; Page D01


FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Aug. 27 -- Venus and Serena Williams have become the ghosts of this U.S. Open, full-on phantoms in designer shoes. Everywhere the other players look, the sisters are hovering -- on the couches of the television talk shows, in the suites of Manhattan's hotels, in the shops of Madison Avenue.


The one place the Williamses haven't seemed to visit is the National Tennis Center, although even here, there are wisps of them in the plaintive sighs heard in the stands.

It's not as if the rest of the draw hasn't tried to make the crowd happy. Top-seeded Kim Clijsters and No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport thumped their way through straight-set wins today, and James Blake even sent a thrill through Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight with a spirited 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2 win over Mariano Zabaleta.

Still, try as they might, no one else has been able to provide the flash of Serena and Venus, who themselves started the day on the network morning shows. They moved on to a chat session with a group of print reporters and even met some corporate sponsorship obligations. Along the way, they held forth on everything from their sport to their injuries to their high heels -- Serena snapped up 13 pairs at Bergdorf Goodman and Manolo Blahnik alone on Tuesday -- and while both were careful to praise those playing in the Open this week, they also admitted that things were, well, a tad boring without them.

"Without us, it is a little dry," Serena Williams told reporters, adding that she hasn't paid particularly close attention to tennis since undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago. By later in the day, she was being even more expansive, saying in a television interview, "there definitely is a big void out there. There are still exciting players out there to see, but I think people are going to miss us shaking things up a bit."

Certainly, there has been no signature match at the tournament thus far, nor any real controversy. Top men's seed Andre Agassi is always a fan favorite, but he has become almost eerily methodical in his early-round matches, providing little tension.

Clijsters, meantime, has yet to truly capture the public's affection. It hasn't helped that she reached No. 1 without having won a major; in fact, she has notoriously choked in her toughest matches. Clijsters also is fighting the perception she only has the top ranking because Serena Williams is injured, and while this is not technically true, it haunts her just the same.

"I've been asked about them," she said today of the Williamses, giving her head a little shake. It has been the same for everyone -- even Jennifer Capriati has acknowledged, "whoever's going to take this title, there's going to be an asterisk next to it, saying 'Oh, but the Williams sisters weren't here.' "

It is easy to see why; no Grand Slam tournament has gone without at least one Williams since the 1997 Australian Open, and the sisters have met in the final of five of the past six majors. And while analysts and fellow players alike have endlessly debated whether their domination has been "good" or "bad" for tennis, as Serena noted today "we're always on the covers of all kinds of newspapers, magazines, everything."

That hasn't changed this week, even though the fuzz of a tennis ball has yet to so much as graze either sister's skin. Serena has not just been shopping but interviewing with movie directors and producers in an attempt to boost her fledgling acting career. She has already shot one movie and is heading to another shoot next week.

Venus has been pumping her interior design business and contemplating visits to museums. Of the pair, she seemed more dejected about missing the final Grand Slam of the year, but the abdominal tear she suffered in May and reinjured in July still aches, and after missing a spate of tournaments since Wimbledon, she finally pulled out of the Open last weekend.

"I was coming in last night and I was passing by the stadium and the big screen. I was thinking, 'I want to be out there. I want to play the night match. Sign me up,' " she told this morning's gathering of reporters. Then she laughed, joking, "I was hoping they'd move the Open back a few weeks so that way maybe I could be ready. Nobody liked that idea."

She will instead try to come back for the WTA Tour's year-end championships in November; if not, she will resurface at the Australian Open in January. Either way, she stressed, she has no intention of leaving the game anytime soon.

"I'm not going away, I like what I do," she said. "I'm not retiring before 33.

"I've thought about it already. I'm not giving up my great job. I like it. I'm fortunate. I'm blessed and I love being out there."

Serena Williams too insisted she will stay in tennis for at least another decade, that she likes her "day job." Still, she allowed that "in a way it is kind of a relief to see how this actually gives me a chance to do some other stuff.

"When I first found out I wasn't going to play, I thought, 'Wow, that's going to be crazy.' I was actually pretty sad, or maybe I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. Then after about five minutes I quickly got over it."

She may be the only one.

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Posted on Mon, Sep. 01, 2003

This wide-open Open not too hot without Williams Sisters
BY FILIP BONDY
New York Daily News

DEAR VENUS AND SERENA:

I know you have many things on your minds right now, like healing those tendons and designing those dresses and performing in those cameo roles. I know that tennis is not the most important thing in your life, because you've told us that many, many times.

I wish I didn't have to interrupt your well-earned rehab, but there's a real problem out here at the U.S. Open. It's the elephant in the room, the big, wrinkled gray one the networks are trying to ignore. Basically, the women's draw without you has been - how do I put this diplomatically? - abysmal.

A few of us thought it might be refreshing to stage a Grand Slam tournament without the Williams sisters, because you win too often, too easily. Well, we were wrong. Those among us who welcomed the wide-open Open were just plain stupid.

The women's matches have been lifeless, hopeless, uninspired. Forehand. Backhand. Unforced error. Real shotmaking is nearly nonexistent. Nobody builds points. Nobody uses the whole court. No one lifts the sport to another level with power and passion. Only Tracy Austin seems to be enthralled by it all.

You know how we always complained about the Grand Slam finals you two played against each other? How uncomfortable we felt watching you, as if we were intruders? Well, there was more drama and tennis geometry in your Wimbledon meeting than anything that has passed for a women's match here in Flushing Meadows.

I would love to report that Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and the two Belgians have carried the day without you, but that would be a lie. It is not entirely their fault. The depth of the field is pathetic. The more the TV announcers hype the Russians, the more they roll over and disappear.

Maybe things will improve in the quarterfinals. But on Monday again, Capriati (who won one match in 35 minutes) crushed Elena Dementieva between the raindrops. If you blinked, you missed another game. For reasons hard to comprehend, the women seem quite satisfied to exit the place once they've played to their ranking. With a few notable exceptions, they accept their slots in life, providing little argument and demonstrating no great aspirations.

It turns out, your presence wasn't the only thing that discouraged the women. They are cowered also by the mere sight of Kim Clijsters, who hasn't lost a set while dropping only 19 games in four matches. Frankly, she isn't even playing that well.

We are still waiting for a breakout moment, for a woman to knock a serve down the middle on a big point and follow it without hesitation, forward to the net.

Meanwhile, the men have produced brilliant, memorable matches with full plot twists and lip snarls. Andy Roddick survived the defiant Croatian Ivan Ljubicic. Younes el-Aynaoui defeated Jiri Novak in a fifth-set tiebreaker, a wonderful tactical battle between players who both really believed they might win.

Late Sunday night, we caught a glimpse of why Roger Federer is the best player of all. He is Liquid Tennis, a fluid wave that covers the entire court. The great thing about the men's draw is that we never know for sure what happens next. Federer must play David Nalbandian, who owns an eerie 4-0 record against the young Wimbledon champ.

Everytime we ask the women here about their ordinary matches, they claim we are imagining things. Clijsters says the matches are one-sided only because she respects her opponents so much, she is well prepared for them. We are not making this up. The tennis has been a lousy argument for that $1 million winner's paycheck.

And in part, the problem is you two, Venus and Serena. The past three or four years, you have spoiled us. We've grown accustomed to the 120-mph serves, the groundstrokes that daub the lines. We revel in the little controversies and resentments that swirl about you - the way Irina Spirlea might bump into you on the changeover, or Justine Henin-Hardenne might disrupt your concentration.

We thought New York could handle your absence, if it were just for one tournament. We were dead wrong. We already are without that mischievous artist, Martina Hingis, and the old masters, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

Now, you've forsaken us as well. We've spent more than a week yawning, bored stiff.

Please come back next summer. Bring your parents. We need the headlines. More than that, we need the tennis. - SINCERELY, SPORTS COLUMNIST

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