Serena can't answer bell

MIKE KOREEN and BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Serena Williams made time for a charity event yesterday, but her time is up in the Rogers Cup.

Williams officially has withdrawn from the $1.3-million US women's tennis tournament.

Williams won her first match of the event on Tuesday at the Rexall Centre at York University, despite being bothered by her previously injured left knee. However, she said yesterday she does not feel well enough to risk another match this week.

"I think it was the best decision for me and my body at this point," Williams said yesterday afternoon at Ronald McDonald House in downtown Toronto, where she made an appearance with Canadian diving star Alexandre Despatie.

"I don't want to injure another part (of her body) until this one is well," Williams said. "Most athletes know their body and what they can do and can't do.

"I love Toronto, I really do. I filmed something here before, so I know the area a lot better than I do some of the other different tournaments. It is difficult and upsetting."

Williams and Despatie signed autographs and played air hockey with children at Ronald McDonald House for about 30 minutes. Immediately afterward, Williams climbed into a stretch limousine and headed for the airport.

Williams, who is coming off a left ankle injury that has weakened her left knee again, had not played since Wimbledon when she took to the court in Toronto on Tuesday.

She was absolutely horrible, in terms of both physical movement and attitude, in the first half of the match. But her resolve hardened and she came back to defeat a game but ultimately overmatched Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Williams set the stage for her withdrawal with her post-match comments on Tuesday. She said she would have to consult with her therapist before deciding what to do.

Apparently, it didn't take long for that decision to be made.

"We were hoping (Williams) would wake up (yesterday morning) and it would be a little bit better -- but it's not," Tennis Canada tournament director Stacey Allaster said. "It's nowhere near 100%.

"We appreciate the effort she made on Tuesday. It was a Serena that we all admired and respected. It would have been very easy for her to retire early in that match, but she worked through it."

In the days leading up to the Rogers Cup, Venus Williams (flu) and Maria Sharapova (chest) pulled out. Then Mary Pierce (quadriceps) withdrew on Tuesday, before playing a match.

At least Williams came to Toronto and got in one match before bolting. Still, Allaster acknowledged that ticket sales for the rest of the week will be impacted by the absence of Serena.

"Absolutely," Allaster said when asked if she is worried about the overall gate.

"Walk-up is driven by the stars. It's driven by who the fans want to see. So, similar to Sharapova, it will have an impact for those diehard Serena Williams fans. You saw the energy in the stadium (on Tuesday). The fans really came out for her."

Williams insisted she still plans to play in the U.S. Open in New York at the end of this month. On Monday, she said she has an unofficial competition going on with golfer Tiger Woods, who has 10 Grand Slam victories to Serena's seven.

"That's the goal, obviously, to be the best that I (can) feel for the (U.S.) Open," Williams said.

However, if she looks anything like she did on Tuesday, she may not last long in the final Grand Slam event of the season.


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