Ill Venus pulls from NZ season start
Dec 20, 2011, 9:59 GMT
Auckland - The future of a Venus Williams return to next month's Australian Open was looking in doubt on Tuesday as the five-time Wimbledon winner withdrew suddenly from the WTA event in New Zealand which was to have been the start her comeback from illness.
The 31-year-old ranked 104th last played in the US Open more than three months ago, withdrawing after she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease which she has been trying to treat with rest and diet - particularly vegetables.
But the American told organisers she would not be fit for the January start and pulled out of the event. Her participation in the Grand Slam starting January 16 must now be in question.
It was not as if Wiliams had not been on court, having already completed a schedule of well-paid exhibition events. 'After playing a number of recent exhibition matches, Williams told her agent she was not ready to play in Auckland,' read a statement on the tournament website.
'We are disappointed to have lost a player of her calibre. While withdrawals of this nature are part and parcel of sport, we sincerely feel for the fans who will also be disappointed by the news of Venus's withdrawal,' added tournament director Richard Palmer.
Williams, who played only 11 matches last season, competing only at three of the four Grand Slams plus Eastbourne, has not won a title in nearly two years.
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