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Injured Azarenka withdraws from Dubai

ESPN staff
February 19, 2013 « Benitez would consider Spain post | Chartbeat test »

Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to recover from a bruised bone in her right foot.

Azarenka, replaced by Serena Williams at No. 1 on Monday, said she picked up the injury en route to the final in Doha, where she beat Williams.

The Australian Open champion had the opportunity to regain the top ranking in Dubai had she gone further in the draw than Williams, but said it would be "stupid" to compete with an injury as she prepares to head to the United States for treatment.

"I have been playing on it a lot over the last five days so going to a new tournament is too much to handle right now," Azarenka said. "It keeps getting worse. It was an unfortunate decision that I had to make, and I'm very disappointed."

Azarenka has won her last 12 matches, but has had her health problems already this season. She pulled out of her semi-final in Brisbane - also against Williams - after a bad pedicure.

At the Australian Open she drew criticism for the lengthy medical time-out she took in her semi-final against Sloane Stephens for what she said was a panic attack but later attributed to a rib injury.

She pulled out of the Dubai tournament midway through the tournament in 2012 because of a left ankle injury.

Speaking in Dubai, Azarenka suggested that the quality of her opponents in Qatar had taken their toll. As well as Williams, she beat world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 Angelique Kerber to reach the final. With back-to-back tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami coming up her body needs a rest, she said.

"Realising that you play five days in a row against top players, sometimes it is too much," she said. "You just try to play. And I tried, but my body says no. I cannot force [it]. I cannot put myself in a position to hurt myself. That would just be stupid."

Of the big names who did start their campaign in Dubai on Tuesday, all four top ten players in action progressed with relative ease.

Sara Errani started the rush with a three-set triumph over Julia Goerges, before Petra Kvitova joined her with a 6-2 6-1 romp against Daniela Hantuchova.

Then, in the evening session, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Lucie Safarova 6-2 6-2 - after losing two of her previous three meetings with Safarova.

"Last time it was a lot tougher, 7-6 in the third set, and I lost," Wozniacki said. "In general I felt the ball pretty well today. I feel the ball sometimes flies here a little bit, but I thought it was okay today.

"The serves and returns were quite tricky - I found they were going a little bit far - but I don't know, probably I just needed to get into the rhythm, and it'll get better from here into my next matches this week.

"Lucie is a tough opponent - she takes the ball really early, really fast, and it's tricky to play a left-hander as well. So I'm happy to be through. There were quite a few positives to take from it."

Finally, seventh seed Sam Stosur ensured there would be no real surprises on the day as she despatched Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-1.

Elsewhere, there were wins for Nadia Petrova, Zheng Jie and Roberta Vinci.

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