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Lindsay rues Venus absence

New York, Aug. 23 (AP): Forget an all-Williams final. The US Open will be a no-Williams affair. Venus Williams joined younger sister Serena on the sidelines for the year’s last Grand Slam meet, withdrawing on Friday because of the abdominal injury that has bothered her since May (as reported in Saturday’s Late City edition). The US Open, which starts on Monday, will be the first major without a Williams since the 1997 Australian Open.

It also will be a test for a sport that has benefited from the sisters’ on-court skills and off-court popularity.

“It’s a shame for the fans. Serena and Venus have been the ones dominating the Slams the last few years,” 1998 Open champion Lindsay Davenport said. “It’s always exciting, especially for the New York crowd, to have at least one of them there. Now both of them are gone.”

Neither has played since Serena beat Venus for the Wimbledon title on July 5, the fifth Williams versus Williams championship match in the past six Slams, all won by Serena. She pulled out of the US Open on August 1, after left knee surgery, leaving the tournament without either defending singles champion (with Pete Sampras expected to announce his retirement).Venus, 23, has been in New York, practising and testing her condition. “I kept thinking I would be able to compete,” she said on Friday. “Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be.

“So, with regret, I have to pull out of this tournament and continue my recovery. I’m looking forward to playing again in the fall.” A Williams has won the past four US Opens, with Venus lifting the trophy in 2000-01.

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