American teen-ager Venus Williams, who had a solid season and currently ranks fifth on the WTA Tour, withdrew Thursday from the season-ending Chase Championships.
The 18-year-old Williams has been slowed by an injury to her left knee. Williams had been plagued earlier this season with an injury to her right knee, but the left one has not responded to daily treatment, forcing her to withdraw.
Williams ended 1997 ranked 22nd on the WTA Tour before improving her game this year and winning for the first time.
"I would have loved to have been able to play the Chase this year," Williams said through a statement released by the WTA. "I just wanted to be able to give my best to the players and the New York fans. It was just not possible this year."
Williams' withdrawal opened the door for Germany's Steffi Graf to qualify for the 16-woman field. Graf, who is 17th on the WTA Tour, was assured of a spot in the Chase Championships Thursday when former archrival Monica Seles of the United States defeated Ai Suigyama in the second round of the Advanta Championships.
Graf, who is playing her second tournament since undergoing wrist surgery, won the Sparkassen Cup for her 105th title, the most among active players. It also was the first tournament she won as an unseeded player.
The 29-year-old Graf has won the Chase five times, most recently in 1996.
Williams has three titles this year -- the IGA Tennis Classic, the Lipton Championships and the Grand Slam Cup. She is 53-13 this year, including a 35-8 mark on hardcourt surfaces. A finalist at the 1997 U.S. Open, Williams reached at least the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slam events this year, highlighted by a semifinal appearance at the U.S. Open.
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