Williams, who went into the US Open as an unseeded player despite being a seven-time Grand Slam winner, has not played a lot of tennis this year and revealed she has been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, a disease that can cause joint pain and fatigue.
After arriving at Flushing Meadows and completing a practice session, Venus made the decision to withdraw, sending shock waves through the tennis community.
Despite not being seeded in the tournament, Williams was still seen as a player likely to do very well and possibly even win the US Open. So what does the withdrawal of Venus Williams mean for the rest of the women’s draw?
The first player to benefit is of course Sabine Lisicki of Germany. The 21-year-old will now progress straight through to the third round, making 2011 her best year at the US Open.
Although seeded 22nd in the draw, Lisicki would have faced a very difficult match against Williams and would not have been heavily favoured despite a strong showing at Wimbledon earlier in the year.
Dominika Cibulkova will have also let out a sign of relief when Williams announced she would be withdrawing. Such a big sign in fact, that she was the victim of a shock defeat that means Lisicki will now take on young American Irena Falconi in the third round. The American has already been lifted by the home crowd who are searching for a new woman to cheer, and although not having as much experience as Lisicki will still prove a test in front of home support.
Perhaps the main beneficiary to the withdrawal of Williams is No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Placed at the very bottom of the draw, Zvonareva will have been weary of Venus Williams and will not have been looking forward to a potential fourth-round meeting with the former champion.
Venus Williams would have been confident of making it past the two youngsters and into a fourth-round tie with Zvonareva. But now the Russian will instead face a relatively inexperienced player who will have come through a close match that is very likely to go to three sets. The No. 2 seed will feel a lot more comfortable looking at the bracket now.
Slightly higher up the draw, the shock exit for Marian Bartoli in the first round has left a more comfortable path for the strong-looking Sam Stosur, who is now likely to meet Zvonereva in the quarterfinals. The Australian is another player who will be breathing a little sigh of relief, knowing she will not have to take on home favourite Venus.
One thing is for certain, the tournament has lost a superstar.
The rest of the field will now be anxious to step up and take over the column inches Williams will leave behind whilst she is out of the game. Zvonerava, Maria Sharapova and of course Caroline Wozniacki will all be looking to step up and take victory at Flushing Meadows to cement themselves at the top of the game. Also to take over the mantle of one of the greatest the game has seen.
It would be impossible not to mention Serena in all of this. She could go either way in the draw now after the news of her sisters' withdrawal. Serena could take the news badly and let it effect her performance, although that is not likely to happen.
Serena will come out strong and determined. She has been denied the chance to play her sister in the final, a repeat of both the 2001 and 2002 finals, but will now be desperate to win the tournament for her sister. More importantly she will be determined to show the tennis world that the Williamses are still the best.
Players in the bottom half of the draw will be boosted by the knowledge they will not have to face Venus Williams, and that could spur them on to take victory in the tournament. That is, unless they meet Serena in the final.
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