Continued from page 1

This from the woman who would’ve played Williams in the third round had Williams stayed and beaten No. 22 Sabine Lisicki. Instead, Lisicki got the walkover.

“She’s a tough girl, and I think she’ll come back. You know, it would be unfortunate if she couldn’t,” Lisicki said. “Serena and Venus both are amazing players, and it’s nice to have them in the women’s sport. I hope she comes back.”

Williams‘ sister, Serena, is still in the draw and looks very much like a favorite, even as a No. 28 seed. Serena plays her second-round match Thursday against Michaella Kraijcek. Later on Arthur Ashe Court, No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki meets Arantxa Rus.

Also playing Thursday are No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Roger Federer, along with the top American player, No. 8 Mardy Fish.

On Wednesday night, Roddick _ who used to be America’s best on the men’s side _ needed 2 hours, 57 minutes to defeat 96th-ranked Michael Russell 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, yet another sign that the days of Roddick dominating every time he walks on the court are gone.

“Well, every wins helps,” said the No. 21 seed. “I’m certainly not fooling myself by thinking that was worthy of a championship performance, by any means. But, you know, I don’t know if I would expect that.”

After Roddick’s match, No. 3 Maria Sharapova took the court for a match that started just before 11 p.m. She rolled through Anastasia Yakimova 6-1, 6-1 in 70 minutes.

“I’m usually in bed by 10:30, give or take, 11,” Sharapova said after the match. “I’m usually in my tenth dream by now.”

Another winner was 19-year-old American Christina McHale, 7-6 (2), 6-2 over eighth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France, the runner-up to Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2007.

“I think there’s a lot of American players _ young American players _ right now that are all kind of pushing each other. So I think it’s exciting,” said McHale, who knocked off Wozniacki at a hard-court tuneup tournament in Cincinnati in August.

Venus isn’t young anymore, and now the wait begins to see if she’ll work her way back into the mix of top contenders.

“I don’t think any of us know how serious it is and hopefully it is not,” Sharapova said. “I don’t feel like it’s the end of her career, even though she’s a bit older. She’s one of the fittest players on tour. And one of the most dangerous when she’s playing well.”