Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams both pull out of Cincinnati Masters

Venus and Serena Williams

Maria Sharapova, struggling with a right leg strain less than a fortnight before the start of the US Open, withdrew from the Cincinnati Masters on Tuesday night. She was joined on the sick list by Venus Williams, who has a virus.

The Russian, seeded No2 here, had problems with her left leg earlier in the season and joked, “It’s the other leg, I know. Balancing it out.”

She added: “I have been practising here the last few days and I’m just looking at the US Open. It’s a tough decision to make. I think [it was] a wise one, in order to give myself the right amount of time to be as healthy as I can be for the Open, which I believe is very realistic. But I don’t know if it would be realistic if I did compete and start tomorrow.

“I’m very confident I will be healthy.”

Williams opened the tournament with a hard-fought win over the Kazak Zarina Dyas, but she did not feel up to playing Ana Ivanovic in the second round.

“It’s pretty rare that I withdraw or retire, so I just wasn’t able to get out there tonight,” Williams said. “Every match you have to be at your best to win. Just after the warm-up I kind of got a feeling for how the tone of the match might go – how much you can give or can’t give.”

She added: “I want to go home to Florida. It’s just something I’ve got to do and get ready for the Open. I definitely would have liked to have more matches, but I have to use my experience.”

Sharapova, who is replaced in the draw by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, was not so downcast, confirming she will not play before the US Open starts on Sunday week, but expects to be ready.

Still, for all her optimism, Sharapova must be worried about launching a realistic challenge for the title. She was reported to have been practising without much focus since losing in the final to Serena Williams, who goes to New York with high hopes of a 2015 sweep of all four majors.

Sharapova denied there were any post-Wimbledon blues: “You build [preparation] to try and play some events before the Open, which didn’t work out according to plan. [But] I did have some good training weeks physically and on the court, but also time to think about that and not have to worry about playing a match the next day. I had a great amount of time. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin Mitchell in Mason, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th August 2015 04.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010