Dubai - Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka
suffered a blow for the second successive year at the Dubai Open when
she pulled with a heel injury, ensuring that Serena Williams will hold
on to the world number one ranking this week.
Azarenka, the only
unbeaten leading player on the tour this year, beat Williams in three
sets in the final of the Qatar Open on Sunday, having played through
part of that tournament with painkillers.
Now, however, the
bruising continues to cause pain in practice and the Belarussian has
decided against risking it any further. Last year she also won the Qatar
Open and similarly withdrew from the Dubai Open with a foot injury.
would have regained the top spot had she won the title this week.
Instead Williams is likely to remain number one at least until the
Indian Wells tournament next month.
"I'm very disappointed, but I
have to listen to my body," said Azarenka, who suffered a ranking oddity
by losing the world number one spot to Williams yesterday despite a
rare success against the American the day before.
happened last week when I played a lot of tennis, so going on to a new
tournament is just too much. The heel kept getting worse, and I needed
"Sometimes the schedule is just too difficult.
Unfortunately you can't know when you plan it in November what will
happen in February.
"I didn't want to continue taking painkillers
because sometimes it's better to feel the pain. so that you can control
the injury. Otherwise it can cause something which is much worse.
"This is just a warning that I have to take care of myself."
also admitted that planning a schedule would become "progressively more
difficult" as the women's game is becoming more and more physically
This was something which became clearer, she said,
after she had won the Australian Open for the second successive time
"I never realised before just how much it takes out
of you," she said. "Physically and mentally it just drains you out - and
then you realise."
Williams, who ended the Australian Open with
back and ankle injuries and a cold, said in contrast to Azarenka, that
she had improved physically a great deal during the Qatar Open.
was really, really, really, really sick last week and physically I just
wasn't at my best, considering I couldn't train, and I didn't
practise," she said.
"I practised only one or two days before
playing because I had the ankle problems. But I didn't want to not show
up and not play. So at least if I could show up and play my way into
shape I would be able to compete and that's what I did.
so much better this week already. I feel like a completely different
athlete, and a completely different person, compared with last week."
Williams is now the overwhelming favourite to win the $2,000,000 Dubai Open for the first time.
after starting against Marion Bartoli, the world number 11 from France
tomorrow (Wednesday), she may go on to a potentially difficult
semi-final with the titleholder, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.