Defending men's champion Juan Martin del Potro joins Serena Williams on U.S. Open sidelines

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2010; 2:03 AM

One day after the U.S. Open lost world No. 1 Serena Williams from its field, defending men's champion Juan Martin del Potro informed tournament officials that he'll be unable to compete in the season's final major, as well.

Del Potro's withdrawalwasn't quite as stunning, given that he hasn't competed since his fourth-round loss at the Australian Open in January and underwent surgery to repair an injured right wrist on May 4.

Still, tournament officials had expected the lanky Argentine would travel to New York to defend the title he claimed in commanding fashion, toppling Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and snapping Roger Federer's five-year chokehold on the trophy in a five-set final. Saturday's statement confirming otherwise was terse.

"It is unfortunate that Juan Martin has not recovered from wrist surgery in time to defend his U.S. Open title," tournament director Jim Curley said. "We wish him all the best and look forward to his return to New York next year."

But the impact of Williams's withdrawal, which installs world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, a 20-year-old Dane and last year's runner-up, as the tournament's top seed, continued to reverberate over the weekend.

"It leaves the women's field without its best-pressure Grand-Slam performer of the last decade," said former pro Pam Shriver, an ESPN analyst. "It leaves it without someone who has won two of the three majors this year [the Australian Open and Wimbledon] and who has won three U.S. Opens. It's a huge void."

Added Mary Carillo, another former pro and frequent TV commentator: "It's a terrible pity. There's nothing good about it."

Williams, 28, reportedly cut her right foot on broken glass at a restaurant in Munich shortly after winning her fourth Wimbledon title and 13th major (most among active female players) in July. She lost to Kim Clijsters in an exhibition a few days later, then pulled out of the World TeamTennis season (she's the marquee player for the Washington Kastles) and underwent foot surgery July 15.

On Friday Williams informed U.S. Open officials that doctors had advised her against competing in the tournament, which starts Aug. 30.

While the circumstances of Williams's foot injury aren't entirely clear, commentator Mary Joe Fernandez said she had no doubt it was serious given the priority Williams has placed on amassing Grand Slam event titles.

"Her main goal is to win majors," said Fernandez, a former touring pro and ESPN analyst. "I've got to think it's pretty bad for her to miss something like this. This is what [Serena and sister Venus] live for."

Williams's withdrawal leaves this year's U.S. Open women's field wildly unpredictable.

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