US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has withdrawn from the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after failing to recover from a knee injury.
Andreescu, 19, has been sidelined with the injury since pulling out midway through the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in October, meaning the Canadian missed last month's Australian Open.
Andreescu, who produced a stunning performance to defeat Serena Williams in the 2019 US Open final to win her first Grand Slam title, had hoped to make her return in Dubai but has lost her fitness race.
“I’m very sad to announce that I won’t be able to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week,” Andreescu said. “I’m not at 100 per cent yet and following my team and doctor’s recommendation, I don’t want to take any risk to re-injure my knee.
"Each day I get closer to being back to the court competing but Dubai is just too soon. I hope I can come and play in Dubai next year.”
Andreescu has enjoyed a meteoric rise on the WTA Tour during her short career so far, despite being severely disrupted by injury.
After her first breakthrough by reaching the Acapulco Open semi-finals in February-March last year, Andreescu landed her first top-level title at the prestigious Indian Wells the following week.
However, a shoulder injury sustained in the Miami Open the next week kept Andreescu out for around two months, making her return at the French Open in May only to withdraw after the first round.
She returned in August at the Canadian Open and in some style, too, winning the title after Williams retired during the final. Andreescu used that momentum to storm to her maiden major title at the US Open in her next outing.
Having started the 2019 season outside the top 100 in the world rankings, the Canadian arrived at the season-ending Finals as the world No 4 only for injury to scupper her hopes in Shenzhen, and the teenager is yet to play competitively since.
Andreescu's withdrawal from Dubai follows that of world No 1 Ashleigh Barty, who last week announced she will not be competing at the February 17-22 tournament due to a foot injury.
Despite the high-profile absences, the line-up at the 20th anniversary of the event remains extremely competitive and features six of the world's top 10 players.
Romanian world No 2 and twice Grand Slam champion Simona Halep will be aiming to add to her 2015 triumph, while third-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova - whom Halep defeated in the final five years ago - bids for her first Dubai title.
Two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina will give herself the chance of winning the title for a third time in four years after the Ukrainian world No 4 accepted a wildcard into the tournament. The player who last year denied Svitolina the chance to win three in a row, Swiss world No 5 Belinda Bencic, returns to defend the title.
Arguably the player to beat in Dubai this year is American world No 7 Sofia Kenin, who returns to the Emirates fresh from clinching her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Ninth-ranked Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands completes the top 10 lineup, which will face a stern challenge from the WTA Tour's younger generation. Among those is 20-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who last year reached the French Open final, Belarus' world No 13 Aryna Sabalenka, and American teenager Amanda Anisimova.
However, perhaps the most amount of intrigue ahead of the Dubai Championships surrounds a 36-year-old veteran who is making her comeback from a second retirement. Former world No 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters last week announced that she had accepted a wildcard into the tournament and will therefore compete in her first WTA Tour event since the 2012 US Open.