Women's tennis simply can't catch a break.
When players take to the court in Montreal on Monday for the start of the Rogers Cup women's event, the $2-million US tournament will be missing some big names.
American Serena Williams, the No. 1 player in the world and two-time Grand Slam winner in 2010, was forced to withdraw from the tournament after foot surgery, keeping her away from the summer's hardcourt season.
No. 6 Samantha Stosur of Australia recently pulled out with a right arm injury, while seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin won't be in Montreal because of an elbow problem.
Venus Williams, Serena's older sister, would also have been considered a heavy favourite but also withdrew from the tournament on Friday due to a lingering knee injury.
Another blow was delivered on Sunday, when Russian star Maria Sharapova announced her withdrawal after injuring her left heel during a 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 loss to Kim Clijsters in the final of a WTAS event in Cincinnati.
"It's unfortunate for the game," said Tracy Austin, the former tennis star and CBC Sports analyst. "The men have consistently had Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top and then you have Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray right behind.
"For the most part, they've always had their top players playing on a consistent level. For some reason it's just been a bumpier patch for the women the last couple of years."
Losing five of the world's top players hurts, but the Montreal event will still see 39 of the top 45 ranked women competing.
Montreal will welcome defending Canadian champion Elena Dementieva, former winner Clijsters as well as the WTA's No. 3-ranked player in the world, Jelena Jankovic.
"It's very strong [field]," said Austin. "It's a perfect week in the calendar as far as the Rogers Cup, and then one week off [before] the U.S. Open."
Here's a look at the contenders for the women's main draw, which takes place at Uniprix Stadium, with Austin's analysis:
Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
- WTA rank: 2
- Rogers Cup seed: 2
- Resumé: 8 WTA titles, 2009 U.S. Open finalist
The young Dane's future continues to look bright. Only 20, Wozniacki, who overtook Jankovic in the WTA rankings on Monday, is already a Grand Slam finalist and her game seems to get better with each tournament.
Austin: Obviously, the strongest tournament of her career was the U.S. Open last year, when she got to the final. She's still [young] and still improving. In the last year she's added more pace on her serve and strengthened her forehand. Caroline has always been a great defender but now she's adding a little bit of power and offence in her game.
Jelena Jankovic (Serbia)
- WTA rank: No. 3
- Rogers Cup seed: No. 1
- Resumé: 12 WTA titles, 2008 U.S. Open finalist
Jankovic has had an up-and-down season. The 25-year-old advanced to the semifinal of the French Open, but fell in the fourth round of Wimbledon. She was also recently bounced from the Cincinnati Open. Jankovic is often described as "one of the best players never to win a Grand Slam."
Austin: She's had a bit of an ankle injury this summer, but it's great to see her back at the top of the game. She was ranked No. 1 in the world [in 2008], but has not won that elusive Grand Slam yet.
Kim Clijsters (Belgium)
- WTA rank: 4
- Rogers Cup seed: 5
- Resumé: Two-time Grand Slam champion, 2005 Rogers Cup champion, 37 WTA titles
Belgian Kim Clijsters quickly regained her form after returning to tennis, winning the 2009 U.S. Open. (Ronald Martiniz/Getty Images) Clijsters retired from tennis in 2007 to start a family, but returned to the game two years later. It didn't take long to regain her form as she disposed of Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal and final, respective, to capture the U.S. Open last year. Clijsters also became the only player to topple both Williams sisters in the same tournament twice.
Austin: She can obviously take the title [in Montreal]. I think any tournament that Kim plays in she can win. She has the body strength and the game to beat anybody on a given day. And she's really ratcheted down her schedule, as far as managing the family on the tour. She's not overplaying and she knows in order to stay eager and to stay fresh, she has to play a limited number of tournaments.
Francesca Schiavone (Italy)
- WTA rank: 7
- Rogers Cup seed: 6
- Resumé: 2010 French Open champion, 4 WTA titles
Despite winning the French Open this season, the Italian has struggled with her game. But with the field so thin at the top, Schiavone certainly has a shot at making a deep run.
Austin: She really wasn't expected to win a Grand Slam, and then once you win, you [become] the hunted. It's normal that she's been struggling a little bit like that. She exceeded everyone's expectations when she won the French Open.
Elena Dementieva (Russia)
- WTA rank: 8
- Rogers Cup seed: 4
- Resumé: 2008 Olympic gold medallist, defending Rogers Cup champion, two-time Grand Slam finalist
It's been six years since the Russian has been to the final of a major and some wonder if the 28-year-old will ever breakthrough. While the skeptics remain, no one can ever question Dementieva's work ethic.
Austin: She beat [Maria] Sharapova in the final [in Toronto] last year. She's had a very long, solid career. When she shows up at a tournament, she comes to play and always gives a 100 per cent. She's a wonderful athlete with monstrous groundstrokes and moves extremely well.
Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, Que.)
- WTA rank: 53
- Rogers Cup: wildcard
A right wrist injury forced her out of the last two events — in Cincinnati and San Diego — but organizers believe she'll be ready for Montreal.
Austin: She's a very solid player and won in Stanford . She hits hard, [especially] from the baseline. Aleksandra has huge power, it's just a matter of consistently and getting consistent results.
Stéphanie Dubois (Laval, Que.)
- WTA rank: 133
- Rogers Cup: wildcard
Dubois opens her tournament against No. 38 Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic. Zakopalova beat Dubois in straight sets when the two met earlier this year in Spain.
Austin: Stéphanie inches up the rankings year after year. She works really hard and she keeps adding to her game and that's what she needed to do. She tries to continue to add more power and more weapons to her game.
Valérie Tétreault (Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que.)
- WTA rank: 170
- Rogers Cup: wildcard
Austin:Tétreault's strength come from her forehand and she plays her best tennis on the hardcourt surface. But don't expect to see the 22-year-old make an impact in a deep women's field.
Heidi El Tabakh (Oakville, Ont.)
El Tabakh is the fourth Canadian in the tournament, earning a spot as a qualifier with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback victory Sunday over Croatia's Karolina Sprem.
- WTA rank: 211
- Rogers Cup: wildcard