New York, 21 July 2011 | AFP

Serena Williams has elected to use an injury-protected ranking to gain entry to the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the season.

The US Tennis Association announced a provisional women’s field for the tournament, which starts on August 29 in New York, that includes 97 of the top 100 in the world rankings.

Only the top 105-ranked players in the world are granted direct entry into the 128-woman field.

Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 has seen her ranking plummet to 172nd in the world after a series of health issues.
However Williams has the option of using the system in which a player who has been sidelined for six months or more by injury can use a special injury-protected ranking to enter up to eight tournaments, including one Grand Slam.

Shortly after winning Wimbledon in 2010, Williams cut her foot on a piece of glass, an injury that required surgery. She then dealt with life-threatening blood clots and was out of action for 11 months.

The provisional US Open women’s field also includes two-time defending US Open champion and reigning Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters, 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China and Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.