Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Serena withdraws from Indian Wells, Miami

Serena Williams pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open with
a left knee injury. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Add Serena Williams to the list of top women who will miss the BNP Paribas Open.
   The top-ranked Williams withdrew from Indian Wells and Miami today with a left knee injury.
   "Sadly, I have to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open," Williams, 35, said in a statement. "I have not been able to train due to my knees and am disappointed I cannot be there. I will keep moving forward and continue to be positive. I look forward to being back as soon as I can."
   Williams, who has won Indian Wells twice and Miami eight times, did not say when or how she hurt her knee. She has not played in a tournament since winning her 23rd Grand Slam singles title in the Australian Open in January to pass Steffi Graf for second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court with 24.
   As Tracy Austin noted on Tennis Channel, by pulling out after the draw was made but before first-round play begins on Wednesday, Williams forced the draw to be reconfigured. Among other changes, No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova moves into Williams' slot at the top of the draw.
   No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber will regain the top ranking because Williams will lose all her ranking points as last year's runner-up to Victoria Azarenka.  
   Williams also withdrew shortly before her semifinal against Simona Halep in the 2015 BNP Paribas Open with a right knee injury. Halep went on to win the title.
   Williams had boycotted the tournament for 14 years after controversy erupted when Venus Williams pulled out of their semifinal with knee tendinitis.
   Also missing this year's BNP Paribas Open are two-time champions Azarenka and Maria Sharapova and two-time quarterfinalist Petra Kvitova.
   Azarenka gave birth to a son, Leo, on Dec. 20. Sharapova is scheduled to return next month from a 15-month doping suspension. Kvitova is recovering from severe injuries to her left (playing) hand in a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic also on Dec. 20.
   Meanwhile, the men's draw was held today. No. 23 seed Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native who defeated Rafael Nadal for the Acapulco title on Saturday, will play the winner of the match between Americans Donald Young and Stefan Kozlov, a 19-year-old wild card. All men's and women's seeds receive first-round byes.
   Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, will face Jordan Thompson of Australia. The winner will meet 20th-seeded John Isner, the 2012 runner-up to Roger Federer.
   In the first round of men's qualifying, Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area upset second-seeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 7-6 (6), 4-2, retired. Istomin stunned two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open en route to the fourth round in January.
   Novikov, 23, will play 16th-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland on Wednesday for a berth in the main draw.
   Two women with strong Northern California ties will play in the first two matches in 16,100-seat Stadium 1 on Wednesday.
   Former Stanford standout Nicole Gibbs of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area will face Heather Watson of Great Britain at 11 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel). Then rising star CiCi Bellis, a 17-year-old product of Atherton in the Bay Area, will make her BNP Paribas Open debut against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.

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