Clijsters withdraws while Sugiyama returns to Pilot Pen tennis TEST

August 2, 2004 03:02 PM

Wrist Injury Forces Belgian To Sideline As Hantuchova Gains Main Draw;
Japanese No. 1 And World No. 11 Gives Field 26 Olympians

NEW HAVEN, Conn., August 2, 2004 ? The continuing left wrist injury that has sidelined Belgian Kim Clijsters through most of the WTA Tour season has caused the 21-year-old, ranked No. 5 on the WTA Tour, to withdraw from the 2004 Pilot Pen presented by Michelob ULTRA, a US Open Series event. At the same time, Ai Sugiyama of Japan, a quarterfinalist at last year?s Pilot Pen and winner of six career WTA Tour events, has announced her intention to compete in New Haven later this month. The commitment of the world No. 11 comes after the July 5 deadline; she therefore does not immediately qualify for the main draw.

By rule, as Clijsters is a ?Gold Exempt? player, Daniela Hantuchova, who announced her entry last week, moves into the vacant main draw spot based on her higher ?Gold Exempt? status. Sugiyama would gain a spot should one of the 19 direct entries withdraw prior to the tournament, set for August 20-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. Sugiyama is also eligible to receive one of the three wild cards, to be awarded prior to the event.

?We are obviously disappointed that this injury will keep Kim from playing the Pilot Pen,? said Anne Worcester, tournament director. ?But we are fortunate that a player with Daniela?s talent and popularity is in line to take the spot to compete in our standout field which features the two hottest players on Tour all summer, Maria Sharapova ? the Wimbledon Champion ? and Lindsay Davenport, who is now No. 2 in the world and has won the last three tournaments.?

"I am very sorry that I wont be able to come to New Haven,? said Clijsters. ?My wrist is improving but I am not capable of playing 100%. Hopefully I can come back next year!"

Sugiyama, 29, cracked the top 10 for the first time in her 12-year career in 2003, winning tournaments at Scottsdale and Linz and reaching the round of 16 at three Grand Slam events. She moved to a career-best No. 8 this year when she won the season-opening event at Gold Coast, Australia. Sugiyama advanced to her second career Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in June, falling in a tough three-set match to eventual champion Sharapova. She will be competing in singles for the Japanese Olympic team for the third time later this month, giving the Pilot Pen 26 committed players who will be playing in Athens.

This would be Sugiyama?s third trip to New Haven; in addition to her quarterfinal trip last year, she also played here in 2000, falling in the second round to fourth-seeded Anke Huber.

Japan?s leading player also continues to be one the world?s top doubles players, with 28 career titles and a current ranking of No. 10. She teamed with Clijsters to win seven WTA Tour doubles crowns last year, including Roland Garros and Wimbledon.