Dubai: World number two Victoria Azarenka announced her withdrawal from the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open for the second successive year on Tuesday – but vowed to make a swift return to the tour.
She cited a foot injury for not playing the event this week, a year after pulling out of the tournament due to an ankle injury.
Azarenka will now be replaced by Carla Suarez Navarro, one of four lucky losers from the qualifying rounds, who gets a direct entry into the second round against Nadia Petrova – a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 winner against Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday.
The Belarusian said: “I am going to the United States and I need to re-evaluate [my training schedule] and hopefully get my infected toenail cut out because it’s still there from Australia. But I’m just going to take my time to make sure I’m 100 per cent to start training for Indian Wells [in March],” Azarenka said.
Deposed from her perch as the world’s best player by Serena Williams earlier this week, Azarenka also pulled out of the event last year just hours before her first-round meeting with Germany’s Julia Goerges.
“No, it’s not the same injury as last year,” the 23-year-old insisted.
“It’s not that I am repeating something. It’s just been a lot of tennis over the last years and the schedule is sometimes difficult and rough on the body,” Azarenka said while disclosing that she had first been affected by a bone bruise on her right heel last Tuesday.
Azarenka had recorded only her second win from 14 meetings against Williams to win the Qatar Open in Doha late on Sunday before arriving in Dubai the following day. She put off a customary meeting with the media on Monday afternoon, citing a busy schedule that included a photo shoot at the new Concourse A at Dubai International Airport.
Her media meeting was re-scheduled for 1.45pm on Tuesday and at 2.30pm there was still no sign of the former world number one. Azarenka finally made an appearance in the stadium’s conference room after 3pm to make the announcement of her withdrawal.
She could not put her finger on the precise reason for her injury, though.
“I don’t know if it’s just the hard courts, but it is very difficult on the body. The game has become so physical and it takes so much out of you that sometimes, you just need a break,” she lamented.
“These little things that happen are just giving you a warning that you have to take care of yourself, because health is the most important thing that you can do. It’s just very unfortunate because the schedule is so packed when sometimes you need to make it in advance and you never know what could happen,” she added.
“We were looking forward to seeing Victoria in action, particularly as she was also unable to play last year through injury,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak. “We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her back in Dubai next year.”
“We are disappointed that Victoria Azarenka will not be playing in Dubai this year,” added Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice- Chairman of tournament owners and organisers, Dubai Duty Free.
“However, we are looking forward to watching seven members of the top 10, including world number one Serena Williams, defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska and Grand Slam winners Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur.”