Originally created 05/10/04

Injured Venus Williams pulls out of German Open final



BERLIN -- Hobbling on crutches and hoping for the best, Venus Williams knew she couldn't play for the German Open title. Whether she'll be ready for the French Open is uncertain.

Williams pulled out before the German Open final Sunday after twisting her left ankle a day earlier in the semifinals. Her withdrawal handed the title to Amelie Mauresmo.

"I'm waiting for the test to see what the issue is - I'm optimistic it's the strain, nothing else," Williams said. "I would really, really like to play the French. I'm just going home now to see my family and get some rest."

She will have time, but not much: The clay-court major begins May 24.

"I don't even want to think about that right now," said Williams, once ranked No. 1 but now No. 11. "Last night, I had difficulties with it. Right now, I got one good and one bad foot."

She was hurt Saturday during her match with Croatia's Karolina Sprem, and sensed trouble immediately.

"I felt it and said, 'I'm familiar with this. Oh, no, I don't need this right now,"' she said.

Williams, contending with injuries all year, was riding a 15-match winning streak and seeking her third straight title. She was coming off a tough semifinal, a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in which she had to rally in the third set.

Mauresmo, ranked No. 3, picked up her first title this year and 11th of her career.

"It's a shame for everybody," the Frenchwoman said. "It's a strange way to end the tournament. You want to win a title on the court."

Many of the biggest names on the women's tour have been sidelined this year. Top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne is battling a virus, and Serena Williams will return from a knee injury at next week's tournament in Rome.

Kim Clijsters, ranked second, was forced out of the French Open when her recurring wrist injury flared at the $1.3 million German Open, a key tuneup for the French. She pulled out of a quarterfinal.

"It's like there's a spell over the tour," Clijsters said.

Mauresmo has missed several events with back injuries along with Jennifer Capriati.

"Tennis is getting harder and harder," Mauresmo said. "The level is higher and higher every year, and we have to work to keep up that level and sometimes our body doesn't follow."

Venus Williams has had a leg injury and several times twisted her ankles during a comeback from an abdominal strain that sidelined her for the second half of 2003.

"I was starting to reach some of my goals. I could have gotten there faster if I was 100 percent," Williams said. "I could be top five, no doubt."

Williams refuses to call for specific changes apart from extending the six-week break players get after the WTA Tour championship.

"We have very demanding schedules," she said. "We play nonstop. When we don't it's an issue."

The WTA Tour's position has been the same since the Australian Open, where Serena Williams and Capriati were injured and Mauresmo pulled out because of her back. The tour said in a statement that injuries "are not the result of overplaying and not on the rise."

Mauresmo, who also won the tournament in 2001, routed Capriati 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and appears in great form heading into the French Open.

"I'm one of, let's say, five players who have real hopes of winning there," said Mauresmo, who earned $189,000 for her Berlin title. "The pleasure isn't the same winning the tournament this way. But it's not just today, it's the way you've played the whole week."