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By Richard Pagliaro - Shaken by the terrorist attacks on America and citing safety concerns over air travel, U.S. Open champion Venus Williams and third-ranked Lindsay Davenport both withdrew from next week's Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Tournament director Alexei Selivanenko, who was initially supportive of the players' decision, today criticized their concerns as "absurd."


"Moscow is the safest place in the world and any reference to a security reason not to play is absurd," Selivanenko said in an interview with Reuters. "Of course, we are all troubled by the events, but it is not our fault."

The tournament director was more sympathetic yesterday, saying: "We fully respect their concerns about traveling." But Selivanenko slammed both players for pulling out today.

Twelve of the top 20 women in the world are expected to play including top-ranked Martina Hingis, French Open finalist Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Nathalie Tauziat and Wimbledon runner-up Justine Henin, who has accepted a wild card into the main draw. Russian Internet icon Anna Kournikova, who has been sidelined for most of the year after sustaining a stress fracture in her left foot, is also expected to join the field. Kournikova, whose last match came at the Acura Classic in the summer, is scheduled to return to tournament tennis tomorrow in Leipzig, Germany.

For the second straight year, the men's and women's tournaments will be played simultaneously at the Kremlin Cup. In the past, the events were held two weeks apart.
 
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