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BRICKER: WTA will feel Serena's pain
Published August 17, 2003

Serena Williams, recovering from leg surgery, is out of the U.S. Open (Aug. 25-Sept. 7) and might not compete the remainder of this season, which would deliver a devastating blow to the WTA Championships scheduled for the Staples Arena in Los Angeles, Nov. 3-9.

Details about Williams' quad tendon injury and when she expects to return to the tour have not been publicized, nor are they likely to be until perhaps a week before she's ready. The Williams family for years has been very guarded about injuries to both sisters -- Serena and Venus.

In fact, Williams' agent at IMG in Cleveland declined even to return a phone call.

But those familiar with her tendon damage say it's not an easy rehabilitation. The patient's range of motion has to be restricted for up to two months. One source, without having specific information on Serena's injury, said this injury might take up to three months to heal.

If Serena can't play the WTA Championships, it would leave Staples with a second straight year of hard sell. Last year, attendance was embarrassingly low -- counting only in the hundreds on several days. Although the WTA and Staples promise a much more aggressive promotional campaign, how easy will it be to sell tickets if Serena can't perform?

Bringing them together

For two years the men's and women's tours have spoken, optimistically, of combining their end of the year championships into one grand festival of tennis.

Unquestionably, the idea of bringing together the eight best players on each tour would be a major step forward for the game. But it won't happen before 2005 and, even then, there is a high degree of difficulty in making it happen.

If there is one promoter in tennis that can do it it's Jim McIngvale -- the furniture store millionaire known in Houston as Mattress Mac. He's putting on the ATP Championships this year at his Westside Tennis Club after proving his promotional brilliance the past two years by hosting a Davis Cup tie and the USTA Clay Courts, which played to full houses in Houston.

But there can't be a men's/women's championship together next year because the Staples contract runs through 2004. Even when both tours are free contractually to combine, the event will need at least 10 days instead of the current seven, and the economics are not insignificant.

Larry Scott, CEO of the women's tour, thinks it might require government financial assistance. "At this point, I'm not sure a promoter could take this on a pure profit-loss basis," Scott said.

Nevertheless, McIngvale is interested, though there will be no serious discussions on this issue until after the ATP Championships. "I love his vision and passion," Scott said. "He sees this as the Super Bowl of tennis. But it's going to take a lot of money."

The tournament would probably follow the current format with the eight players divided into two four-player groups. Each player in a group plays the other three, with the top two players in each group moving into a final four with a semifinals and final.

Because of the expense involved in staging this event, doubles might have to be eliminated.

Second serves

Andy Roddick of Boca Raton and Guillermo Coria of Argentina are the two hottest players in tennis. ...

Lleyton Hewitt, who is trying to simultaneously focus on tennis and a lawsuit against the ATP, hasn't played this poorly in two years. He hasn't had a significant win since he beat Nikolay Davydenko in the second round at the French Open. He got to the final at Los Angeles, but his wins were over Cecil Mamiit, Michael Joyce, Kenneth Carlsen and Nicolas Kiefer. Meanwhile, his $2.5 defamation lawsuit continues to occupy too much of his thoughts, as does the bad publicity he keeps receiving. He sued after the tour fined him $20,000 for refusing to do an interview with ESPN a year ago. The suit will be heard in Australia a week after the Open. Despite winning the tournament two years ago, Hewitt won't be among the favorites this year in New York. His game and his motivation are way off form. Last week in Cincinnati he lost in the first round to Xavier Malisse, looking quite disinterested as he went down 6-1 in the third. ...

Juan Carlos Ferrero, who could be seeded No. 2 for the Open, has one week to find his form, which is not very good right now. He committed numerous mistakes down the stretch of a three-set loss in Cincinnati to Gaston Gaudio. ...

Michael Chang will play his final tour match or matches at the U.S. Open, and he will be on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, where, following his inevitable defeat, he will receive the sort of warm, nostalgic and extended goodbye he deserves. He has not been the greatest ambassador for American tennis and only an infrequent Davis Cup player. But you cannot underestimate the contribution he has made to tennis over the past 15 years. ...

Chang is 2-8 in his final season with his ranking fallen to No. 217. He last played Hicham Arazi in the first round at Cincinnati last week, where he won the first set but lost 6-0 in the third. ...

The singles draws for the Open will be held on Wednesday and should be on the Internet by late that afternoon. ...

Excellent return to the tour last week for Amelie Mauresmo, who must be considered a contender for the U.S. Open with one and possibly both Williams sisters out with injury. ...

Remember Martin Verkerk, who made a lot of people smile on his way to reaching the French Open final, where he lost to Ferrero? He's 1-6 since reaching the final. ...

Keep an eye on: Weslie Moodie, a big-serving, smooth-moving South African who has quickly risen from challenger events to No. 105, and Viktoriya Kutuzova, the 14-year-old Ukrainian training at Chris Evert's academy in Boca. ...

There are five American women among the top 10 (Serena, Venus, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Chanda Rubin), 12 in the top 50 and 16 in the top 100. Women's tennis in the United States has never been deeper. ...

When will the Jelena Dokic slide end? She was at No. 17 this past week and, with 192 points to defend in Canada, she'll slip even more when the new rankings come out Monday. She could fall out of the top 20.

Charles Bricker's tennis column appears Sundays. He can be reached at [email protected]

11,079 Posts
I wouldn't be surprised if she pulled out for the rest of the year.

6-8 weeks is pretty quick to heal from surgery without any pain or hiccups.

Get well soon, Serena!! :sad: :sad: :sad:
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