Serena plans to play through left knee injury

July 22, 2008 10:33 AM

By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer

CARSON, Calif. (AP)
-- Serena Williams plans to keep playing through a left knee injury despite advice from a doctor and her father that she rest with less than three weeks before the Beijing Olympics.

Serena Williams 225
She figures her injured knee “will be old news” by the time the Olympic tennis competition begins Aug. 10.

Williams withdrew from Saturday’s semifinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford after injuring her knee. She said that an MRI exam afterward revealed an inflamed joint.

“I’ve been playing a lot of tennis, that’s basically what it is, a lot of use,” she said Monday. “I haven’t had enough time to train the way I normally do off-court because I’m playing a lot.”

Williams, ranked fifth in the world and seeded second for this week’s East West Bank Classic, received a first-round bye and is scheduled to play her opening match Wednesday against Czech Petra Kvitova.

“I’m taking it day-by-day and I’ll see how I go,” she said. “I’m doing rehab for it three times a day, just to make sure that I’m ready.”

Serena’s older sister, Venus, and Lindsay Davenport already withdrew from Carson because of right knee injuries, making for a rash of knee injuries on the U.S. Olympic team.

Venus has said she plans to play next week’s WTA tournament in Canada before going to Beijing, while Davenport has not indicated her immediate plans.

Serena said a doctor and her father, Richard, recommended that she skip this week’s tournament near her hometown of Compton.

“He’s always passive and I’m more aggressive,” she said about her father. “I’ve been doing really well all year and I’ve been playing a lot. What I want to do is play tennis and play tournaments for this year and several years. I just feel like that’s all I want to do.”

Williams has played nine tournaments this year and won three consecutive titles. She has a 33-5 match record, including a loss to Venus in the Wimbledon final.

That’s in sharp contrast to her previous lower level of activity outside the Grand Slam tournaments.

“I just didn’t want to play as many tournaments because I felt like I just didn’t need to. I think it worked for me,” she said. “I’ve always just played what I wanted to play, regardless.”

That includes the Olympics, although her ailing left knee caused her to miss the 2004 Athens Games. She and Venus teamed to win the gold medal in doubles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Serena called it “my favorite trophy.”

“When I first had an opportunity to compete, I was excited and I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t understand it until I was there and until I actually won,” she said. “Then it kind of all set in, what a great feat it was.”

Williams expressed her opinion on the widespread violent anti-government rioting across Chinese-ruled Tibet last spring.

“I’m not supporting that in any way,” she said. “However, I’ve noticed that no matter what city the Olympics is in, there’s always a controversy.

“But at the same time, I’m just there to open awareness and people can see that they can open their doors by playing sport.”

Williams said she’s not concerned about playing outdoors in Beijing’s gray-tinted air, where she’s competed twice before in a WTA tournament.

“I also play in New York and L.A. and let’s face it, we’re no saints here,” she said.

Jelena Jankovic of Serbia has also played in Beijing, where she said a fine coating of soot covered her body during matches.

“It was a quite dirty, quite polluted area, but hopefully they will do the best they can to clear it because sometimes it looks like it’s foggy,” she said. “It can affect your breathing.”