London - Serena Williams, who captured her 19th Grand Slam title at the
Australian Open last month while struggling with a persistent virus, has
withdrawn from the Dubai Open, apparently suffering from the same
Williams' achievement in those difficult circumstances in
Melbourne was particularly remarkable, but the cost may be high and has
been causing concern about the 33-year-old's long-term health.
has been suffering from a nagging cough since that triumph and was
forced to sit out the second day of the United States' 4-1 FedCup win
over Argentina in Buenos Aires last weekend.
The world number one
made it clear at the start of the year that she must restrict her
schedule if she is to have a chance of winning the three more Grand Slam
titles needed to reach Steffi Graf's open era record of 22 - and her
Dubai pull-out underlines her determination to do this.
however, the second time in three years that Williams has pulled out of
the popular and lucrative Middle East tournament, something which may
not help the American's image in this region, especially as she has also
failed to win it in four attempts.
It may, though, give her a
better chance of doing well at her next tournament, Indian Wells, early
in March, something of unusual significance for her and for her sister
It will be the first time either Williams sister
has returned to Indian Wells since they boycotted the tournament after
their hostile treatment by the crowd 14 years ago.
absence in Dubai allows Venus to squeeze into the top eight seeds,
something which may help her defence of a title which made her the
tournament's first unseeded champion.
"Serena's doing what's best
for her," said Venus. "She's been sick for a while and all the
travelling can have an affect on you. There comes a time when you need
to do something about it."
"I know what it can be like (to be
unwell)," added Venus, who has had chronic health problems in recent
seasons. "It builds character - and I have had to build a lot of
character in the last few years."
She could have a quarter-final
with Ana Ivanovic, the fourth-seeded former French Open champion, and if
she were to survive that, a semi-final with Petra Kvitova, the
second-seeded Wimbledon champion, would be a possibility.
I'm feeling good right now, I've only lost once this year," the
34-year-old champion said. "I've been playing well and I'm looking
forward to playing even better."
The player stepping into Serena's
shoes as top seed is Simona Halep, the French Open runner-up from
Rumania, and among the other frontline contenders are Caroline
Wozniacki, the third-seeded Dane, and Agnieszka Radwanska, the
fifth-seeded Pole, both of whom are former winners of the Dubai title.
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, a wildcard entry, has also withdrawn, with arn arm injury.
Top eight seeds:
Simona Halep (ROM), 2, Petra Kvtiova (CZE), 3, Caroline Wozniacki
(DEN), 4, Ana Ivanovic (SRB), 5, Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), 6,
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS), 7, Angelique Kerber (GER), 8, Venus Williams