Serena pulls out

Serena Williams.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: It was a bolt from the blue for the KSLTA. The Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who was the biggest draw of the $175,000 Sony Ericsson WTA international championship starting at the KSLTA Stadium here on February 12, has pulled out of the tournament on grounds of sickness.

Serena in a message to the organisers and the WTA Tour, expressing her inability to compete at Bangalore said, "I have contracted a bad flu and I am running high fever and as such I am not in a position to travel and compete this week. I am very disappointed that I have to withdraw from the Sony Ericsson International in Bangalore in which I was looking forward to participate. Unfortunately with bad flu, I am too sick to travel. I am sure that with Sony Ericsson's involvement and the incredible fans in India, the tournament will be a great success. I really hoped to be able to play there and see the incredible culture of India."

Serena also thanked the Chief Minister who had announced that she would be treated as a State guest. "I really appreciate the honour and sincerely thank Mr. Kumaraswamy for that."

Till late on Friday night, the KSLTA was unaware of Serena's sickness. The officials went to the airport to receive her this morning as she was scheduled to arrive by a British Airways flight from London at 4-45 a.m. But there was no sign of Serena. It was then that they contacted her agent, who told them that a few hours ago, he had sent a mail to WTA and KSLTA about her decision.

The organisers did make some efforts to defer her arrival by a day or two, but Serena, however, expressed her inability to travel.

The organisers are now not in a position to replace Serena with any other reputed player as most of them are scheduled to play in the WTA events in Antwerp and Paris. Serena's spot will go to a lucky loser in the draw.