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Serena Pulls Out, Citing Ankle Injury

Times Staff Writer

Serena Williams has pulled out of more tennis tournaments than she has won in 2005.

It’s now 4-1 after her withdrawal from the French Open shortly before Friday’s draw for the second Grand Slam of the year, which starts Monday.

The former French Open champion says she has a troublesome left ankle.

“I’m very disappointed to be forced to withdraw from this year’s Roland Garros due to the re-injury of my left ankle ... and I look forward to participating in next year’s tournament,” Williams said in a statement released by tournament officials.

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Williams’ injury materialized last month at a clay-court tournament in Amelia Island, Fla., prompting her to retire during a quarterfinal match against Silvia Farina Elia of Italy. Williams also pulled out during a semifinal at Dubai with a shoulder injury, and before her second-round match at an indoor event here with a stomach ailment.

Since winning the Australian Open in January, her first Grand Slam title in 18 months, Williams has reached one semifinal.

Friday’s draw presented the beguiling prospect of a third-round meeting of France’s Richard Gasquet and Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Each carries the weight of an expectant nation in search of more Grand Slam titles, and each holds a victory over top-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Nadal beat Federer last year in Miami and Gasquet defeated him on clay in Monte Carlo last month, ending Federer’s 25-match winning streak.

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The fourth-seeded Nadal, who has won five tournaments this year, must deal with Lars Burgsmuller of Germany in the opening round. Gasquet starts against a qualifier.

Nadal has defeated Gasquet in their two meetings on the ATP Tour, both matches going three sets. In their first pro encounter, Gasquet beat Nadal at a 2003 challenger event in St. Jean de Luz, France, when Nadal retired with an injury after losing the first set.

Nadal and Gasquet are in the same half of the draw as Federer, who opens against a qualifier or a qualifying-round lucky loser, to be determined today.

In the lower half are No. 6 Andre Agassi and No. 2 Andy Roddick, who could meet in the quarterfinals. Agassi will face a qualifier in the first round and Roddick will play wild-card entrant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

On the women’s side, the most difficult quarter of the draw appears to be the one with No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, No. 8 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, No. 9 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, No. 14 Kim Clijsters of Belgium and Dinara Safina of Russia. Clijsters, who has a knee injury, has been unsure of her ability to play here.

Venus Williams, seeded 11th, is in the same half as Davenport and in a quarter with the two Russians who played in last year’s final: No. 4 Elena Dementieva and defending champion Anastasia Myskina, who has been struggling with her confidence.

Another former champion, No. 10 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, is at the other end of the confidence spectrum and the other side of the draw.

Henin-Hardenne, who has three consecutive clay-court titles and a 17-match winning streak, will play former finalist Conchita Martinez of Spain in the first round. Henin-Hardenne is in the same quarter as No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, both of Russia, and the same half as No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo of France.

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