Maria: Rogers over 'n out

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:38 AM ET

Maria Sharapova broke some hearts yesterday, but it had nothing to do with her good looks.

Organizers of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament received word the 18-year-old Russian sensation has withdrawn from the event, which takes place this week at the Rexall Centre at York University.

Sharapova, who had been the top seed for the Rogers Cup, pulled out of a tourney in Los Angeles last Friday because of a strained right pectoral muscle.

"(Sharapova) has been advised not to hit any balls until at least Wednesday or Thursday," Tennis Canada tournament director Stacey Allaster said. "So she doesn't want to chance it.

"I'm glad she didn't wait another day. It's better to know."

Withdrawals by major stars, often at the last minute, have cursed the women's tour in recent years. But Allaster believes the two significant no-shows for the Rogers Cup -- Sharapova and Venus Williams (flu) -- have legitimate health issues.

"In the past, we've had ones that were questionable," Allaster said. "(Maria) is not questionable. Venus was not questionable. So, we're supposed to insist players play when they're sick or they're injured?

"What the tour has done to reform and make the commitment system better has worked. That's why we have such great depth in this field."

Still, it was not the best day to appreciate the merits of a new commitment system. After all, Sharapova had been pegged as "The 'It' Girl" in omnipresent Rogers Cup advertising.

"We have all of (the major players) who are healthy, and I think that's the issue," Allaster said.

"Maria is a young lady. Having to pull out last week, can't play this week, not going to play New Haven (next week), I'm sure this is an emotional time for her as she is starting to think: 'Maybe I'm not going to be ready for (the U.S. Open later this month).' I feel for her. And I feel for our fans, obviously."

Rogers Cup officials had an opportunity to re-seed the draw last night, since Sharapova withdrew before play in the main draw had begun. Top players who remain on the docket include defending champion Amelie Mauresmo, Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Nadia Petrova, Kim Clijsters, Anastasia Myskina and Mary Pierce.

Allaster said Pierce still plans to play in the singles draw, but a strained right thigh has caused her to drop out of the doubles event. She had been partnered with Mauresmo.

Rainy weather wreaked havoc with qualifying matches yesterday, but the main singles draw still is scheduled to start today.


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