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Tahlak plays down Li Na absence

Tournament Director of Dubai Tennis Championships says Sharapova ‘50-50’ for event

  • By Alaric Gomes Senior Reporter
  • Published: 21:30 February 12, 2013
  • Gulf News

Dubai: Chinese tennis sensation Li Na, the beaten Australian Open finalist, will miss next week’s Dubai Duty Free Championships, but tournament director Salah Tahlak has insisted that the annual event won’t suffer too much in her absence.

“It’s unfortunate Li Na has not been able to recover from her Australian Open [ankle] injury to make it to Dubai next week, but we have some of the best players in the world who have confirmed their appearance at the tournament,” Tahlak told Gulf News on Tuesday.

Li Na pulled out of this week’s Qatar Open making way for Timea Babos in the main draw. Also withdrawing from the Doha event was Venus Williams citing back trouble.

“Such things are bound to happen in any event. It would have been superb to have the Australian Open finalist in Dubai, but that is not possible due to her injury. We can only wish her all the best for a speedy recovery,” Tahlak said.

Li Na, who will turn 31 at the end of this month, has so far won seven WTA and 19 ITF singles titles. In 2011, she became the first player from Asia to win a singles Grand Slam when she claimed the French Open. Currently the World No.5, the Chinese ace has a huge following all over the world.

“It’s unfortunate for us that she will not be coming here, denying the large Chinese community a glimpse of a true champion,” Tahlak added.

“But then we have a solid draw that consists of some of the best players in the world coming to Dubai,” he added.

The women’s competition has attracted seven of the top 10 players, with the entry cut-off set with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at No.31. Besides the top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and No.2 Serena Williams, the Pole Agnieska Radwanska will be back to defend the title she won last year.

“We are also hoping to have Maria Sharapova return to Dubai and I can safely say that the chances of her coming are 50-50,” the tournament director said.

The men’s tournament, on the other hand, has six of the top ten players in the draw, including defending champion Roger Federer and World No.1 Novak Djokovic.

The two-week competition, owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, will get under way with women’s qualifying rounds from 10.30am on February 16 and 17.

Gulf News