Serena left hurting

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

For a while it didn't look like Serena Williams was going to last any longer in Toronto than her sister Venus did.

And Venus never was here.

But even though Serena perservered to win her gruelling opening match at the Rogers Cup last night, she aggravated her previously injured left knee and admitted her future in the tournament is cloudy.

"I'm going to talk with my therapist and see what the best thing for me to do is," Williams said following her 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over a surprisingly tough Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France at the Rexall Centre at York University.

"The way I felt (last night), I didn't feel very good at all. I wasn't even moving to any balls. I have (today) off, so maybe that can help. But I'll have to see what my therapist says."

When someone asked about the U.S. Open at the end of the month, she cut the question off.

"I'm playing," she said with a smile.

As for the rest of the Rogers Cup, who knows? The last thing the event needs is another dropout.

Serena hadn't played since Wimbledon, and it showed. She has been battling a left ankle injury, which subsequently caused some problems with her left knee.

Of course, Cohen-Aloro's stellar performance had a lot to do with Williams' struggles, too.

"She hit a very weird ball," Williams said. "She had a lot of spin, and when the ball bounced it was way above my head."

Williams is seeded fifth in the tourney and is seventh in the world rankings, while Cohen-Aloro is ranked 92nd in the world. But from the moment Serena walked on to the court last night, she seemed sluggish.

Her demeanour was dour.

Williams appeared to jam her left leg on the final point of the seventh game in the first set, which she lost to fall behind 4-3.

However, she claimed afterward that there had been no specific moment when her knee became a problem.

"No, not at all," she said.

"It was before."

Williams' resolve hardened as she gutted out the second set. Cohen-Aloro failed to hold her serve three times in the final set, but she deserves credit for refusing to fold.

In other Rogers Cup news, it's a good thing Toronto doesn't have a complex about being rejected. That was sarcasm, in case you missed it.

All sarcasm aside, the tournament lost another of its most recognizable faces when Mary Pierce withdrew. Pierce, who had been the No. 8 seed, pulled out because of a strained right quadriceps.

The Rogers Cup already was dealing with last-minute rejections from Maria Sharapova (chest) and Venus Williams (flu).

Amelie Mauresmo of France, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters of Belgium, and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia all are top-notch players.

But they don't have the celebrity value of Sharapova and the Williams sisters.

Mauresmo, the No. 2 seed behind the absent Sharapova, dispatched of Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar 6-2, 6-3 yesterday. Kuznetsova survived a scare against Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain before coming back to win 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Kuznetsova spoke about how much more comfortable she is when she smiles now, since the braces have been removed. But after her narrow victory yesterday, her smile was a forced one.

"When you have a (first-round) bye, the first match is very dangerous," she said.

Serena Williams would concur.


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