Osaka and defending champion Krejcikova withdraw from Dubai Tennis Championships

Krejcikova defeated world No 1 Swiatek in the 2023 final but is struggling with a back injury

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Barbora Krejcikova will not return to defend her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title after organisers confirmed she and former world No 1 Naomi Osaka had withdrawn from the tournament.

“We regret to inform you that Barbora Krejcikova and Naomi Osaka have pulled out of this year’s tournament," an official statement read. "We wish both players the best of luck for the rest of the 2024 season and look forward to seeing both players return to Dubai in the near future."

Krejcikova, the world No 12, had been scheduled to compete in the full Middle East swing but after reaching the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open quarter-finals last week, she pulled out of her first-round match at the Qatar Open and has confirmed she will not play in Dubai either.

“It's with a heavy heart that I announce my withdrawal from the Dubai tournament,” the Czech said. “This decision wasn't easy, especially given my fond memories and anticipation to compete again. However, my back injury requires further healing time. But I am committed to returning stronger next year.”

Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, stunned Iga Swiatek in last year's final, defeating the world No 1 6-4, 6-2 to win the sixth singles title of her career. The 28-year-old, also a seven-time Grand Slam doubles champion, has had a good start to the season, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open before losing to eventual winner Aryna Sabalenka.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka also confirmed that she will not be competing at the tournament next week.

“I’m really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this season,” she said. “I have loved playing in Dubai in previous years, and I want to wish the tournament organisers a successful event in 2024.”

The 26-year-old Japanese player is in the early stages of a comeback following 15 months away from the tour. Osaka initially took a break in September 2022 to prioritise her mental health, before announcing in January 2023 that she was pregnant. She gave birth to daughter Shai last July.

Naomi Osaka says her level is improving ahead of Mubadala Open

Naomi Osaka says her level is improving ahead of Mubadala Open

Like Krejcikova, Osaka had planned to play the full Middle East swing. She was knocked out in the first round of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open by Danielle Collins, but has fared better at the Qatar Open this week and plays fellow former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening.

The 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships starts on Sunday and will welcome many of the world's top players. The WTA Tour's top four – Swiatek, Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, and Abu Dhabi champion Elena Rybakina – will all compete at the tournament, as will Tunisian world No 6 Ons Jabeur. In all, nine of the world's top 10 players are confirmed for the tournament.

Following the conclusion of the women's tournament, it will be the turn of the men, with defending champion Daniil Medvedev, compatriot and 2022 winner Andrey Rublev, and Poland's world No 8 Hubert Hurkacz among the leading players confirmed for the ATP 500 event.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 1:10 PM