Injury forces Serena to pull out early again

Serena Williams regards herself as the world No 1, despite the fact that Dinara Safina occupies the top spot in the rankings, but the American went out at the first hurdle for the third tournament in a row here yesterday.

Complaining of a knee injury, Williams retired after losing the first set to Francesca Schiavone, saying she did not want to risk her fitness with the French Open less than a fortnight away.

Two days ago Williams complained about the tour injury rules, saying that players would be fined heavily for withdrawing from tournaments even if they were dead. She arrived here carrying an injury, but in coming to the tournament avoided a $75,000 (about £49,500) fine.

"I'm remodelling a house and I don't know about anyone else but $75,000 is a lot of money to me," she said. "That's like my whole furniture bill, some stairs, rugs, that can go a long way."

Williams could be joined at the French Open by Maria Sharapova. The Russian has been sidelined by a shoulder injury but will play her first competitive singles in nearly 10 months in Warsaw next week.

*Richard Gasquet has been suspended from playing following his positive drugs test for cocaine. The Frenchman is expected to attend an International Tennis Federation hearing within the next two months. Until this year, players who had failed tests could continue to play in tournaments until they had a chance to appeal the findings.

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