Venus Williams has pulled out of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, citing a viral illness. Though she played three World Team Tennis matches in July, the WTA "Premier 5"-level tournament was set to be Venus' first WTA event since Wimbledon, at which she disappointingly lost to Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round.
From the Rogers Cup release:
"I was really excited to play Toronto," said Williams. "I came here ready to go and was practicing. I wasn't feeling very well and had to see the doctor today. I was diagnosed with a viral illness and unfortunately am unable to play. I am extremely disappointed. I'm very sorry to the fans and tournament."
The withdrawal scuttles what had been a highly anticipated first round match between the elder tennis-playing Williams sister and another former WTA No. 1 and Grand Slam champion, Serbian Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic will now face qualifier Zhang Shuai, who took Venus' slot in the draw.
Though late withdrawals from tournaments by both Williamses are often met with skepticism, there shouldn't be any doubting Venus on this one. Venus had traveled to Toronto already, participated in the draw ceremony, and was seen on court in Toronto practicing, including in a photo posted by Jelena Jankovic on Facebook.
That said, Venus hardly has a comprehensive history of playing in Canada. Though the Canadian Open/Rogers Cup (which alternates annually between Montreal and Toronto) has been a major hard court tournament for her entire career, Venus has only played it three times, in 1995, 1997, and 2009. All three of those years were odd-year editions of the event in Toronto, and all three times Venus lost her first match at the tournament. She has never competed in the event when it is held in Montreal during even years.
In 2010, Venus did not play a single tournament between Wimbledon and the US Open (pulling out of Montreal and Cincinnati citing a knee injury), though she did play those same three matches of World Team Tennis for the Washington Kastles. Despite the layoff, Venus made it all the way to the semifinals in New York, losing a tight three-setter to eventual champion Kim Clijsters.
The most ridiculous part of this story is not anything Venus did, but the ridiculous spin that the Rogers Cup's tournament director Karl Hale tried put on his tournament losing a major star.
From the same statement:
"We are disappointed by Venus's illness but our Rogers Cup fans got to see her on site at Rexall Centre for at our official draw and celebrity tennis events," said Tournament Director Karl Hale.
Because, of course, the ticket-buying masses will always settle for appearances at "celebrity tennis events" they almost certainly didn't attend.
Stay tuned to SB Nation's coverage of the 2011 US Open Series at SBNation.com as well as on Twitter, @DailyForehand .