NEW YORK (AFP) - Serena and Venus Williams dominated women's tennis with skillful shotmaking and flamboyant personalities, but injuries and improving rivals could be ending their reign as the US Open looms. Neither Williams sister has played in a tournament since Wimbledon and only third-seeded Venus will be in the field when the year's final Grand Slam tournament starts Monday on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
World number one Serena has withdrawn from more events than she has played this year, even though she boosted her Grand Slam singles title total to 13 by defending her Australian Open and Wimbledon crowns.
The fade comes as younger faces such as world number two Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark climb the rankings and other veterans such as Kim Clijsters and also-injured Justine Henin return from breaks in their careers.
Serena, who turns 29 next month, will not appear at the event where she exited to a profane tirade last year. She screamed a threat at a line judge who called a foot fault against her - an outburst that cost her a penalty point and her semi-final match against eventual winner Clijsters.
Serena has not played since her Wimbledon victory, citing a cut she received on her right foot at a German restaurant celebrating her Wimbledon triumph, an injury that required surgery and kept her out of the US Open. She appeared on Wednesday with a walking boot on her right foot and has made the scene in plenty of high-profile events off the court, but she has played only six events this year, three of them Slams.
After winning the Australian Open, she withdrew from five events over the next three months with a left knee injury, then played on Rome and Madrid clay before a run to the French Open quarter-finals and a women's doubles title with Venus at Roland Garros. Venus, 30, has not given any information on her sister's misfortunes. "Serena released as much information that she wanted to about her leg," Venus said.
"Traditionally we don?t say much about injuries. We don?t need anybody to feel sorry for us about it." Serena won her first Slam title at the 1999 US Open and also won there in 2002 and 2008. She won the 2002 French Open, Wimbledon in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010 and the Australian Open in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Venus won US Open and Wimbledon titles in 2000 and 2001 but since then has taken her only Slam titles on England grass in 2005, 2007 and 2008. The former world number one last reached the US Open final in 2002, losing to Serena. But a sprained left knee has kept her idle since she lost in the Wimbledon quarter-finals to 82nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.
"The pain that I am experiencing in my knee has unfortunately not gone away," Williams said in a statement. On her website, Venus said her US Open preparations were going well. "I am getting geared up to play in New York. I have been training very hard in the gym and getting back on the court."
Article by Jim Slater on 28/8/2010