LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Serena Williams has been given a special wildcard berth into the Cincinnati Masters on Thursday, just two days after suffering an embarrassing loss in the Rio Olympics.
The 34-year-old American and defending gold medallist was upset in straight sets by world No. 20 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3 in the third round on Tuesday.
Williams and her sister, Venus, were earlier knocked out of the doubles draw, the first time the pair had lost together in Olympic competition.
Serena complained of shoulder problems during her match with Svitolina but there was no mention of the injury in a news release on Thursday.
"We are thrilled Serena is returning to defend her (title)," organisers said of the two-time Cincinnati tournament champion.
With the top players in the world competing in Rio, 22-time Major champion Williams should be well rested for Cincinnati which gets underway on Monday.
"She is a fan favourite here in Cincinnati," the news release said.
Wildcard spots are usually reserved for players who lack the standard qualifications to get in such as rising stars, local favourites or former champions who are no longer ranked with the top players.
The announcement came 24 hours after 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic pulled out of Cincinnati due to a left wrist injury.
Djokovic has been a runner-up in Cincinnati five times but has never won the event.
On Sunday, the Serb lost his first round match at the Rio Olympics to 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
With his and Williams' exits, the Rio tournament has lost both of its No. 1 players.
The Cincinnati hard-court tournament is one of the main warm-up events for the US Open - the final Major of the year which begins August 29.