Injuries have caused tourney withdrawals

Serena and Venus Williams plan to compete at the Athens Olympics
despite injuries that forced them to pull out of recent

"They've both been working hard and doing their rehab," U.S.
Olympic tennis coach Zina Garrison told The Associated Press on
Thursday in a phone interview from Houston.

"I've actually spoken directly to Serena, and she's fine,"
Garrison added. "As far as Venus, I've spoken to her agent and one
of her sisters. They are both still looking forward to going."

The sisters will be defending their 2000 doubles gold medal
during the Aug. 15-22 tennis tournament on hard courts in Athens,
and Venus will try to win a second straight Olympic singles
championship. Serena also is entered in singles.

But both have been hurt lately, extending the string of injuries
that have hampered them for about a year.

Serena withdrew from last week's WTA Tour event in San Diego and
this week's tournament in Montreal because of swelling in her left
knee. She had surgery to repair a partial tear in that knee Aug. 1,
2003, and was sidelined for eight months.

"On the advice of my doctors and physical therapists, I have
made the difficult decision to give my knee more time to fully
recover," Serena said last weekend.

Venus pulled out of the San Diego tournament before her
first-round match because of a sprained right wrist. That injury
forced her to quit during her semifinal against Lindsay Davenport
at Carson, Calif., last month.

She missed the last half of 2003 with a stomach muscle injury.

"Both of them, unfortunately, had had some injuries. But it was
good that their focus was to pull out of their tournaments to be
ready for the Olympics and give themselves a shot," Garrison said.

"Well, bad for the tournaments, but good for the Olympics."

While Kim Clijsters will miss the Athens tournament after left
wrist surgery, top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne recently said she
will compete there after missing time with a viral infection.

Some members of the U.S. men's tennis team have injuries, but
all are expected to be in Athens: Mardy Fish (back injury), Taylor
Dent (strained right calf), and Vince Spadea (back injury).