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Serena Is Out With Injury

Williams doesn't go to Athens because of a knee problem. U.S. women's tennis team is cut to four.

August 12, 2004|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The U.S. women's tennis team, expected to bring glory and gold to its country in the Athens Olympics, has instead brought doctors' pink slips. For the second consecutive day here, a projected medalist called in sick.

Wednesday, Serena Williams joined Jennifer Capriati as an Olympic casualty, also opting out with an injury. Williams was to join her sister Venus and other American male and female team members on a flight Tuesday from Newark, N.J., to Athens. But Serena visited Dr. David Altchek in New York sometime Tuesday and, according to U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Randy Walker, was told she might aggravate a left knee injury that has kept her out of recent WTA Tour events.

"I am sad and disappointed, not only because I am unable to travel to Greece and participate in the Olympics, but also because I gave my word that I would play," Serena Williams said in a statement.

So the plane left without her, and her departure reduced the U.S. women's team of Coach Zina Garrison to four players. They are Venus Williams, Chanda Rubin, Martina Navratilova and Lisa Raymond.

It also reduced the team's chances in singles numerically because, unlike Capriati's withdrawal, which resulted in Raymond's move into the singles draw, Serena's withdrawal gave an additional singles spot to Australian Samantha Stosur. Raymond got Capriati's spot because, as a doubles player already entered in the tennis event, she had the next highest singles ranking for a team without four singles players. When Serena pulled out, the United States again was reduced to three singles spots, but Australia had only three singles players in the draw and Stosur, at No. 96, ranked higher than the remaining singles possibility for the U.S., the 47-year-old Navratilova, who has played very few singles events this season.

Venus Williams is the defending champion in both singles and doubles. She played doubles with Serena in Sydney, and because Raymond and Navratilova qualified as a doubles team, by process of elimination will play with Rubin, the only other American standing.

Had Capriati and Serena Williams pulled out before Aug. 7, Americans Amy Frazier and Meghann Shaughnessy, ranked Nos. 25 and 33 this week respectively, would have been possible replacements. But after the Aug. 7 entry deadline, the complicated rules allowed no new entries and called for adjustments from those already entered.

Garrison's statement, sounding familiar, said, "Serena has been battling injuries all year and we as a team are disappointed that she won't be able to join us in Athens."

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