The hurt just gets worse and worse.
The JPMorgan Chase Open, ailing a bit before it even started this week thanks to a spate of injuries and absences involving several top players, could lose its biggest remaining attraction today.
Top-seeded Maria Sharapova struggled to pull out a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 16th-seeded fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze on Thursday in the third round of the $585,000 WTA tournament, and said afterward that if an injured right pectoral muscle that has bothered her periodically since last year did not improve, she would consider pulling out of tonight's quarterfinal match at the Home Depot Center.
"Tomorrow I'm going to go out on the practice court, and if I feel like I can't serve without pain, there's no reason for me, really, to play," Sharapova said. "I mean, as much as I want to play, it's more important for me to be ready for the U.S. Open."
One of the tournament's most-hyped promotions, a Sharapova bobblehead doll giveaway, is scheduled tonight, but it is fans and tournament officials who could be left shaking their heads if the world's No. 2-ranked player cannot go on court.
"There will be disappointed fans if she doesn't play tomorrow night, there's no doubt about it," tournament director Bill Peterson said. "Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do to control that. We're monitoring it with her people, and we'll see what happens in the morning."
The event took hits before it began when No. 1-ranked Lindsay Davenport and No. 7-ranked Serena Williams withdrew because of back and ankle injuries, respectively. Other players who pulled out the day before the tournament or during the first day included Vera Zvonareva (left ankle sprain) and Ai Sugiyama (left thigh injury). Mary Pierce, who won last week's Acura Classic, pulled out Wednesday, citing a thigh injury.
Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, is scheduled to play in the featured match at 7 tonight against Daniela Hantuchova, who defeated Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-4, 6-4, Thursday night. Scheduling the match in the evening gives Sharapova more recovery time and may improve her chances of advancing to at least the semifinals. If she gets that far, she can become the first Russian woman to attain the world's No. 1 ranking.
"There's no pressure at all. It's not important for me to play," she said. "I'll probably feel terrible pulling out, and that's not what I'm all about. But if it comes to playing, and it can hurt me for the Open, then there's no reason for thinking about No. 1 or thinking about anything else."
So what do the tournament, and tennis, need to do to heal themselves?
Don't ask Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. Less than 24 hours after she upended No. 2-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, Daniilidou retired because of a sprained right ankle after dropping the first set of her third-round match to 33-year-old Conchita Martinez.
In another third-round match, No. 5-seeded Kim Clijsters breezed through the first set but had to rally to win the second in a 6-0, 7-5 victory over 12th-seeded Dinara Safina.
"Maybe it was a little bit too easy for me and I just wasn't as focused anymore," Clijsters said. "But I did well when I had to, and I came back in that second set, so that was good. I ended well, and that's the most important thing."
Clijsters, a two-time French Open finalist, has rebounded well herself since returning to the tour after a left-wrist injury that sidelined her for most of 2004. She will face Nadia Petrova in a quarterfinal this afternoon.
Third-seeded Elena Dementia advanced, 6-3, 7-6 (4), over Marion Bartoli in Thursday night's featured match, but the lone U.S. player left in the draw, Lisa Raymond, was upended, 6-4, 6-3, by qualifier Tathiana Garbin of Italy.