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Serena pulls out of Carson event

Williams withdraws because of knee injury, perhaps mindful of Olympics, U.S. Open.

July 23, 2008|Lisa Dillman and Lucas Shaw | Special to The Times

For Serena Williams, the decision to pull out of the East West Bank Classic on Tuesday because of an injured left knee was more about next month than the immediate future.

Williams is scheduled to play singles and doubles with her older sister, Venus, at the Beijing Olympics (matches begin Aug. 10), and after that is the U.S. Open in New York, which begins Aug. 25.

Giving the inflamed knee additional rest doesn't automatically mean she'll be ready for the Olympics. But it gives her a better chance than risking her knee swelling up again after matches at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Her departure, though not a surprise, is a blow to a tournament whose field already had been devastated by the injury-related withdrawals of Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"It's a huge disappointment for me to be unable to play the East West Bank Classic in my hometown of L.A.," Serena Williams said in a statement. "I've been getting intensive therapy and doing everything in my power to get my knee in shape for this week, waiting until the last possible moment to see if I could play."

Williams attempted to practice Tuesday morning and said she knew she couldn't be ready for the event.

Tournament organizers learned of her withdrawal shortly before noon.

"We appreciate the fact that Serena, until the moment her doctors advised her to withdraw, she did everything physically and mentally she could to play this week," said spokesman Michael Roth of AEG, which owns the tournament. "The fans and this tournament are both very important to her, and I know how disappointed she was . . . to withdraw."

Venus Williams and Davenport are in the same position as Serena, trying to get healthy in time for the Olympics. Venus, for now, is scheduled to play next week in Montreal.

The Carson event lost another top player Tuesday, when sixth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova was upset in the second round by Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-2, 6-4.

Serena Williams withdrew from a semifinal in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford on Saturday after injuring the knee during the second set. On Monday, there was no consensus in her camp about playing the Carson tournament.

During a media conference at the Home Depot Center on Monday, she said that her father, Richard, and one of her doctors did not want her to play. Still, there was little doubt her primary focus was on the Olympics and the Open.

"There's two really big events I'm going to be excited to be a part of," Williams said. "Honestly, my Olympic gold, even though it was in doubles, is my favorite trophy I have."

Melanie South of Britain, who lost in qualifying, will replace Williams in the draw.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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