Serena withdrawing from Fed Cup; Tu added to roster

Updated: July 12, 2007, 1:50 PM ET
Associated Press

Serena Williams is pulling out of the United States' Fed Cup semifinal against Russia at Stowe, Vt., this weekend because she injured herself during Wimbledon.

The eight-time Grand Slam singles champion will be replaced on the U.S. roster by Meilen Tu, who flew to Vermont on Wednesday to join the rest of the squad.

"I've talked to her and I've also gotten an e-mail. She wasn't very happy that she wasn't able to come," U.S. captain Zina Garrison said. "The doctors advised her, for this week, it wouldn't be a good idea to risk possibly straining her thumb a little bit more."

Williams hurt her left thumb at Wimbledon this month, after being picked for the Fed Cup team.

Tu joins Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, doubles specialist Lisa Raymond and Vania King.

"I was so excited to get the phone call. It's my first time being on the Fed Cup," the 41st-ranked Tu said. "I have a great team, a great coach, great captain. It's just unbelievable."

The draw for the best-of-five semifinal is Friday, with matches Saturday and Sunday.

"The only thing we knew when we came into this -- it was going to be a tough match no matter who was here, whether Serena was here or not," Garrison said. "We're still going to go out and play as well as we can play."

The matchup already lost some luster when two-time major champion Maria Sharapova, who is No. 2 in the rankings, withdrew from Russia's roster because of a right shoulder injury that's bothered her for months. Russian media reported that 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova would pull out, too.

There was, however, some lingering intrigue: As of Wednesday, Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev was still waiting to get a visa to be able to travel to the United States, and Russia's Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its Web site saying, "We consider this slowness to be incomprehensible and unwarranted."

The USTA said it would help Tarpishchev in any way it could.

Williams and her older sister Venus were part of the four-player team announced June 27 by Garrison, along with doubles specialist Lisa Raymond and teenager Vania King. But five days later, Serena Williams strained her left calf and hurt her left wrist and thumb during her fourth-round victory at Wimbledon.

Particularly hampered by the wrist and thumb -- she had to hit backhands with one hand instead of two -- she lost to Justine Henin in the quarterfinals at the All England Club. On Tuesday, Williams pulled out of next week's WTA tournament in Mason, Ohio.

She and Venus, who won Wimbledon for her sixth major title, were on the U.S. team that beat Belgium 5-0 in the Fed Cup quarterfinals at Delray Beach, Fla., in April. That was Serena Williams' first Fed Cup action since 2003, and Garrison has spoken about the sisters' commitment to participate in the competition and win it -- if healthy.

The United States hasn't won the Fed Cup title since 2000. Italy is hosting France in the other semifinal.

The 41st-ranked Tu complained last month that she hadn't heard at all from Garrison before the team was picked.

"I'm a little bit disappointed in that I never even met her," Tu said at Wimbledon, a day after the roster was announced. "Look, I can go up to her and definitely introduce myself, I'll give you that. But I think it's part of her job representing women's tennis, representing the Fed Cup, that she come up and talk to all the American players."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press