Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard withdraw from Dubai Tennis Championship
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship will be missing two of its biggest attractions of the first week as illness and injuries have forced top-ranked Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard to opt out of the tournament.
Serena, the world No1 and reigning Australian Open champion, is still struggling with the lingering effects of a respiratory illness that bothered her through her campaign in Melbourne, while Canadian star and world No7 Bouchard has pulled out with an injured arm, a day after accepting a wild card for the tournament.
The American, who lost to Alize Cornet in the semi-finals last year, played a Fed Cup singles against Argentina in Buenos Aires last week, but was replaced by CoCo Vandeweghe on the second day.
“Serena was sick in Australia and then she had to withdraw from her Fed Cup match,” said elder sister Venus, who will be defending her crown in Dubai this week. “It’s just very challenging to hit three and four continents in a row. It’s a lot when you do all that traveling and you don’t get a chance to get better.
“So she needs this time to just try to recoup and feel better.”
Venus, herself, has faced plenty of health issues, including the autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome, the dilapidating effects of which had caused her ranking slip to No102.
A year ago, she was No48 when she arrived here as a wildcard, but the American returned home with her biggest title since the 2010 Mutua Madrid Open, defeating players like Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki along the way. It was her third triumph in three visits to the Aviation Club and the 34-year-old is hoping to keep her 15-match winning streak in Dubai going.
“Obviously it is wonderful to come back here as the defending champion,” said Venus, who has been given a bye to second round along with the rest of the top eight seeds.
“There’s no pressure really because it’s so great to get the title and nobody can take that away from you. It’s always yours. So, for me, I just try to enjoy the moment.
“Last year had some really nice moments for me; it was a good year and a lot of players would have loved to have that year. I had it and I am trying to make this year better.”
Serena Williams is expected to make her return to the courts at Indian Wells after she decided to bring her 14-boycott of the tournament to an end. Venus has also not played at the tournament since 2001, when the two sisters were heckled by fans and, according their father Richard, racially abused, but has not made a decision about going back yet.
“I haven’t talked to her [Serena] a ton about it, but it was decision she made, and I support whatever decisions she makes,” said Venus, adding, “I have not signed up with the tournament.”
Serena withdrawal means Simona Halep is top seed in Dubai and her half of the draw includes No3 seed Caroline Wozniacki, 6th seed Ekaterina Makarova and No7 seed Angelique Kerber. The No2 and 2013 champion Petra Kvitova has Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska and defending champion Venus in her half.
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Published: February 14, 2015 04:00 AM