Women’s week weakened by Williams’ withdrawal in Dubai tennis

World number one pulls out of Dubai tennis with illness

By Alex Leach - Senior Reporter

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Published: Sun 15 Feb 2015, 9:19 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:44 PM

Dubai: The draw for the WTA event of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was overshadowed by the late withdrawals of world number one Serena Williams and Canadian wildcard Eugenie Bouchard on Saturday.

Top players Alize Cornet, Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams seen with officials at the WTA draw for the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai on Saturday. — KT photo Dhes Handumon

Williams, who was the top seed for this week’s competition, pulled out due to illness on the very eve of the proceedings yesterday, whereas Bouchard cited an army injury sustained in Antwerp, Belgium, for her withdrawal.

Another no-show here from US and Australian Open champion Williams is nothing new for those who have followed this event in the recent past. However, Bouchard’s unavailability came as something of a surprise considering news of her availing of a top 20 wild card was only officially disclosed on Friday. 

“Serena Williams has been forced to withdraw due to her continuing illness and Eugenie Bouchard, who had accepted a top 20 wild card, has also had to withdraw due to an arm injury she sustained in the match she lost in Antwerp (to Germany’s Mona Barthel 4-6, 6-1, 6-2),” confirmed WTA supervisor Donna Kelso to the assembled audience inside the Majlis at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

“Apologies for that news, but we still have some fantastic players in the draw.” One such individual is – of course – Serena’s older sister Venus, who duly received a first-round bye as the defending champion and eighth seed here this year.

“She needs to rest,” explained Venus, who quipped she was in her sibling’s “inner circle.”

“It’s overwhelming to do all of that winning and travelling. It takes a toll and she was already ill, so now she has got to slow down; figure it out; get well and then come back and – more than likely – return to her winning form.

“I always encourage her to just make the right decision. We like being at the tournament together and she could have gained a lot of points here, so – of course – I wanted to see her play. But, she has to make those decisions for herself.”

Venus high-fived fellow top-eight seed Agnieszka Radwanska at the ceremony after the fifth-ranked Pole plucked Venus’ name out and thus positioned her at the top of the bottom half in this 64-strong field.

“It was just a little bit of fun as she pulled my name,” explained Venus, who has a first-round bye. “You never know where you’re going to end up in the draw and who is going to win or lose.

“What’s important is that you just get through to the next round because, with the depth in the game right now, you cannot predict this. You could be at a loss that very same day if you don’t play your best.”

Venus herself certainly appeared back to something like her vintage best 12 months ago as she won a one-sided final 6-3, 6-0 against France’s Alize Cornet.

The 2014 runner-up is also returning to the fray this time around and she has been pitted first up against a close friend in Kirsten Flipkens from Belgium.

“We played against each other last year in the second round,” Cornet commented. “Last year, I played against her three times and she is a very good friend of mine.

“It’s always complicated to play against a friend and it was such a battle the last time we played together. I won 6-3 in the third set in China (Wuhan), so I’m expecting a very tough battle again.”

Radwanska, who is looking to reclaim the trophy she clasped three years ago now, will meet Cornet’s compatriot Caroline Garcia or Australian qualifier Arina Rodionova in round two.

“I was always expecting a really tough draw from the beginning,” ‘Aga’ admitted. “I’ll have to prepare for a very tough match and try to play my best tennis because otherwise I’ll be in trouble.

“When you go to a tournament you’ve won before, the goal is always to win it again, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”


Draw for women’s singles first round

Simona Halep (Romania, 1) – First-Round Bye, Mona Barthel (Germany) vs Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia, WC), Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria) vs Klara Koukalova (Czech Republic), Elena Vesnina (Russia, Lucky Loser) vs Shuai Peng (China, 16), Andrea Petkovic (Germany, 9) vs TBA 1, Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) vs Annika Beck (Germany), Heather Watson (Great Britain) vs Kateryna Kozlova (Ukraine, Qualifier), First-Round Bye – Ekaterina Makarova (Russia, 6), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark, 3) – First-Round Bye, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Croatia, Qualifier) vs Samantha Stosur (Australia), Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada, Qualifier) vs Cagla Buyukakcay (Turkey, WC), Kirsten Flipkens (Belgium) vs Alize Cornet (France, 15), Flavia Pennetta (Italy, 10 WC) vs Julia Goerges (Germany, Lucky Loser), Qiang Wang (China, Qualifier) vs Kurimi Nara (Japan), Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia), First-Round Bye – Angelique Kerber (Germany, 7), Venus Williams (USA, 8) – First-Round Bye, Belinda Bencic (Switzerland) vs Karin Knapp (Italy), Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic, Lucky Loser) vs Casey Dellacqua (Australia, WC), Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) vs Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic, 11), Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) vs TBA 2, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Czech Republic) vs TBA 3, Sabine Lisicki (Germany) vs Monica Niculescu (Romania), First-Round Bye – Ana Ivanovic (Serbia, 4), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland, 5) – First-Round Bye, Caroline Garcia (France) vs Arina Rodionova (Australia, Qualifier), Jarmila Gajdosova (Australia, Qualifier) vs Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Timea Babos (Hungary, Qualifier) vs Jelena Jankovic (Serbia, 12), Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain, 13) vs TBA 4, Vera Zvonareva (Russia) vs Camila Giorgi (Italy), CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), First-Round Bye vs Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic, 2).

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