Aug. 18, 2005. 01:00 AM>ADVERTISEMENT<
http://[img]http://ads.thestar.com/i...owad[/img] HARRISON SMITH/TORONTO STARSerena Williams took time out yesterday to visit 4-year-old Dayo Aganmayo at a local Ronald McDonald house. Williams is the latest star to withdraw from the Rogers Cup after suffering a knee injury.Serena limps out of tourney
Hobbled by left knee problems
Latest in long list of withdrawals
What more could go wrong at the Rogers Cup?
Organizers were dealt yet another in a series of blows with yesterday's news that No. 5 seed Serena Williams, their most popular remaining player, was pulling out due to left knee problems that hobbled her during a second-round victory on Tuesday night.
Her departure adds to a list of big-name withdrawals that started late last week when sister Venus Williams backed out citing the flu. The trend continued with top seed Maria Sharapova (chest muscle) pulling out Sunday and eighth seed Mary Pierce (quadriceps) on Tuesday.
In all, six of the top-20 players have withdrawn in the past week.
Organizers frankly acknowledged that Serena's departure will hurt ticket sales, especially given she played before a packed and enthusiastic house during her 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France.
"Absolutely. Look, walk-up is driven by the stars," said tournament director Stacey Allaster.
Yesterday, organizers reduced their projected attendance for the week-long tournament to 145,000-150,000. They had hoped to attract 155,000 before Serena pulled out.
Rogers Cup officials began bracing for the worst after watching Serena labour on centre court against Cohen-Aloro.
The younger Williams sister had played only a handful of matches since spraining her left ankle in the spring, an injury that led to the weakening of her left knee.
"This morning I did some extensive testing with my therapist, and again, after my match (Tuesday night) the knee just isn't 100 per cent," she said in a statement. "It's hard to be out there when you know you can't play at your best and could potentially make it worse.''
No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who Williams was due to play next, will advance on a walkover.
Williams said the knee problem was aggravated in the first set against Cohen-Aloro, who forced Williams to move around a lot.
The American, ranked No. 7 in the world, said she plans to go back to Florida to train and strengthen the knee for the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29.
As she's been doing all this week, Allaster again found herself announcing "disappointing news.''
"We were hoping that (Serena would) wake up this morning and it would be a little bit better, but it's not, nowhere near 100 per cent,'' Allaster said, adding the tournament appreciates that Williams played her first match in pain.
"It was the Serena we all admire and respect. It would have been easy for her to retire earlier in that match, but she really worked through it.''
This is the first time the women's tournament has been held in the new $30 million Rexall Centre, which opened for the men's tournament last year. Rogers Cup organizers are trying to raise the profile of the Tier I event and were hoping this year's event would be special.
But this week has featured the same difficulties of some prior events, including last year in Montreal when several top names were missing, including the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport, who is not in Toronto this year either.
The Official Fashionista of the Royal Court