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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US Open: As Seeds Fall, Venus Withdraws

The opening days of the US Open have been rather dangerous for the women's seeds as gutsy opponents made their marks. Three of the top ten seeds  and five of the top 15 suffered early exits, including French Open winner Li Na (no. 6) and the newly crowned Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova (no. 5). With other big names like Maria Sharapova (no. 3) and Vera Zvonareva (no. 2) narrowly escaping defeats of their own, it seemed no player was safe and a true tournament favorite was unknown—unless of course, you favored the Williams sisters.

But just as 19-year-old American Christina McHale added Marion Bartoli (no. 8) to the growing list of WTA casualties, a devastating news alert was released from Arthur Ashe Stadium: Venus Williams had withdrawn from the tournament.

Moments before her second round match, Venus Williams told officials she would not be able to compete. The seven-time grand slam champion was preparing to play German hot-shot, Sabine Lisicki, in what was expected to be one of the best collisions of week one at Flushing Meadows. Instead, Venus exited the facility head down.


Venus Williams releases news of her withdrawal from the US Open.
"I'm really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year's US Open," Williams said in a statement to reporters. "I have been recently diagnosed with Sj√∂gren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain." (via Tennis.com)


Venus has not played a match since losing to Tsvetana Pironkova in Wimbledon's fourth round (highlights from the match here). She was expected to compete in both Toronto and Cincinnati, but deferred from both with a mysterious "viral illness."


In her first round match, Venus defeated Russia's Vesna Dolonts 6-4 6-3, but according to the American who has only withdrawn from a grand slam once before in here 17-year career, the victory took every ounce of energy she had left. She leaves New York disappointed and it is unknown if she will be able to return to the game at all for the rest of the 2011 season.


Looking at Venus's performances in the last year, it seems her body can no longer keep up with the high pace, high power style of play that has earned her fame. Venus withdrew from the Australian Open earlier this year during her match against Andrea Petkovic due to a hip injury and has only played in 5 tournaments since Wimbledon 2010. Questions about her retirement have flared across the tennis world, but there's no sign that she is ready to hang up her racket.


If Venus were to retire, what would come of American tennis? For nearly two decades we have sat and watched the Williams sisters stun us with incredible wins, controversial losses and jaw-dropping outfits. Yes, we have newcomers like Christina McHale, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens climbing the ranks, but are we really ready to say goodbye to two of the most dominant players in the women's game? Surely not. But if it is time to bid Venus farewell, something tells me Serena will pick up the slack. After all, the younger sister did win two US Open series tournaments in the previous month and earned a clean-sweep of editors picks to win this grand slam.


Whether you lose in round two, or in the championship, only one player can hoist the US Open trophy at the end of these two weeks. Unfortunately for Venus, it was not a big-hitting young gun who removed her from contention, but rather her own body. Although she was unseeded, she joins the rest of the unlucky WTA stars who were sidelined earlier than expected and will have to wait for another chance at glory. In the meantime, we'll see what little sister Serena (no. 29), has to say about the importance of seeds...


-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor

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