Venus Williams

Venus Williams (Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- Venus Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001 and was a semifinalist last year, withdraw from this year's tournament about an hour before her scheduled second-round match Wednesday against Germany's Sabine Lisicki, citing an unspecified viral illness.

Lisicki, 21, who was a semifinalist at Wimbledon, was expected to give Williams an interesting test. Instead Williams will see her ranking drop to outside the top 100. Before the U.S. Open Williams hadn't played a match since her fourth-round loss at Wimbledon, citing a viral illness, and she has played in only four tournament in the last 12 months because of an assortment of injuries.

Williams, 31, won her 60th U.S. Open match Monday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium, in straight sets over Russian Vesna Dolonts, Williams, until this year, had reached at least the fourth round here every time she has played and is a six-time semifinalist.

Williams has won seven major titles in her career and, after winning here Monday night, she spoke of her eagerness to get back to playing. She said she would have played in a $50,000 challenger event if that's all that had been available.

She also spoke of her summer-long illness, calling it "energy-sucking," though when asked directly, Williams would not name the illness. It had not kept her from making sponsor appearances or designing her black, white and pink dress for her first-round appearance.