Venus Williams is caught in a catch-22 situation one week before the US Open.
Her chances of success are greatly improved by the withdrawal of sister Serena, the No. 1 player in the world, but she is yet to win a grand slam that Serena has not taken part in.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Venus said that, while she will miss her sister's presence in the locker room at Flushing Meadows, she has already accepted the fact that she will be the one one flying the Williams' flag out there.
The question, though, is whether that will be enough.
"If anything it's a big disappointment for her," Venus said. "It's just bad luck and she'll roll with the punches, but I know she'll be there for me all the way through and there will be another Open for her."
While Venus is battling a knee injury that has kept her on the sidelines since Wimbledon, Serena officially withdrew from the 2010 US Open on Friday, as she continues to recover from a foot injury.
Serena cut her foot on a piece of broken glass in July and required surgery, according to a press release issued on the US Open's official website. The three-time champ in New York has not competed on the WTA Tour since winning her 13th career Grand Slam tournament title at Wimbledon.
"It is with much frustration and deep sadness that I am having to pull out of the US Open," Serena said in a statement released by her publicist. "My doctors have advised against my playing so that my foot can heal."
While it is bad news for Serena, it could be just as bad for Venus.
Venus has appeared in 50 grand slams in her 13-year career, and she has only taken part in 10 when Serena has not also been in the main singles draw. Whether or not it is just coincidence, all seven of Venus' singles' titles have been at tournaments where she's had her sister to keep her company.
Of these 10 slams that Serena has missed through injury, Venus has only been past the quarterfinals once—in the 1997 US Open—and she has never won a grand slam singles title when Serena wasn't also around.
Maybe you can put it down to camaraderie or sisterly rivalry. Just what value can you place on seeing a familiar face in the locker room? Is the support of a close sibling worth more than having to face this same sibling, even if your closest ally is also your biggest rival?
When Serena pulled out of Wimbledon in 1999 with the flu, Venus fell to Steffi Graf in the round of eight. The following year when Serena was absent from the entire European clay court season with a left foot problem, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario won 12 of the final 15 games in their Roland Garros encounter to give Venus another quarterfinal exit.
Similarly, when Serena missed the 2002 Australian Open with a right ankle injury, Venus let a one-set lead slip against Monica Seles in the quarters. In 2004, while Serena was rehabbing from an injury to her left knee, Venus lost in straight sets to fellow American Lisa Raymond.
When Serena's injury-plagued 2005 season saw her withdraw from the French Open, Venus fell to unknown Kazakhstan Sesil Karatantcheva in the third round, and when the knee problems carried over into 2006, Venus lost in the quarters of the French (to Nicole Vaidisova) and in the first week of Wimbledon (to Jelena Jankovic).
In a similar vein, Venus, ranked No. 1 in the world with Serena in ladies' doubles, has never played in a grand slam doubles match without her sister. The pair has played 109 doubles matches at slams together, and Venus is unsure whether she will pair up in the ladies' doubles next week.
"I don't know if I can do it without her," Venus laughed. "It's great to play with someone you believe in just as much as you believe in yourself. You don't come across that too much."
She added: "All of the good players are probably taken."
Assuming Venus does not play in the doubles, her schedule will be much lighter than it would otherwise have been. While it's probably best for her knee in the long term, Venus admits it will leave a hole over the two-week tournament.
"I don't even know what it's like to play a Major without playing at least 10 matches," she said. "I've been playing doubles the last couples of years so it will seem very free. Obviously I've accepted that she's not playing so mentally I'm already prepared for her not to."
Despite being America's top hope on the women's side of the draw, Venus said she doesn't feel any extra pressure ahead of the tournament. She said she's experienced enough to deal with the big matches, but said that, although the draw will be a little more open without her younger sister, the path to victory is not a given.
Venus, who said that she wasn't with Serena when she cut her foot, said: "You never can tell what can happen at the draw so I'm just focused on what I can do and I'm not really focused on the other people.
"I'm pretty experienced at this point in my career, so I'm able to deal with kind of pressure. The worst pressure is the pressure you put on yourself. I just try to leave it all done to technique and leave it all out on the court."
Before the start of play on Monday, Venus will take to the court on Thursday, Aug. 26, for a live interactive virtual tennis clinic.
B/R columnist Marianne Bevis has a great article about the legends' clinic and how Venus is literally "fashioned for success. You can read her article here
Tennis enthusiasts around the world will tune in as the seven-time Grand Slam champion answers questions, demonstrates technique, and offers hints and tips on how to improve your game during this one-hour interactive clinic.
The clinic will reach a global audience, as it will be streamed live online exclusively at www.RalphLauren.com and accessible on mobile devices at m.ralphlauren.com/USOpen.
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