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DUBAI: Serena Williams, the world number one, and Victoria Azarenka, the only unbeaten leading player on the women’s tour this year, have been penalised for their late withdrawals from the Dubai Open.
Williams, who had a bad back and withdrew on Wednesday, has had $50,000 forfeited from the WTA’s bonus pool, and zero points imposed for one tournament on her world ranking calculation.
Azarenka, who had a bruised heel and withdrew on Monday, had $100,000 forfeited from the WTA’s bonus pool and zero points imposed for one tournament on her rankings calculation.
Azarenka’s stronger punishment reflects the fact that hers was the second successive time she had pulled out from the Dubai Open after the entry deadline.
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak said: “I had a conference call with the WTA in Florida and they are taking action against Azarenka, relating to her second successive withdrawal. There is also action against Williams.
“The WTA apologised to me. It’s unfortunate that it happened, but sometimes it is better that they (the players) are not pushed too hard. It can be better for the sport. When I saw Serena she looked really bad.
“It is very disappointing both for the tournament and for the fans some of whom come from all over the world to be here. But both players have promised to come back here next year, so for me the matter is now closed.”
The incidents are a setback for the WTA Roadmap’s campaign to reduce the number of player withdrawals, something it appears to have done successfully over the past three years.
The forfeitures however seem of little financial consequence when the bonus pool total is as much as $4,900,000, and when these two players also earn many millions of dollars a year from prize money and sponsorships.
The zero points imposed is also unlikely to have much, if any, adverse effect on the ranking of either, when calculated alongside their many successes.
Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur’s season of woe continued at the Dubai Championships when she crashed out in the quarter-finals following a 6-2, 6-4 defeat by Italian Roberta Vinci yesterday.
Vinci will now play doubles partner Sara Errani in an all-Italian semi-final after her compatriot beat Russia’s Nadia Petrova 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.
Stosur has lost more matches than she has won this year, with her win-loss record standing at 5-7 after she produced an error-strewn performance under the searing desert sun that left her frequently yelling in frustration.
Vinci, 30, broke in the opening game and was always in control against a player who has failed to win a title since triumphing at the US Open in September 2011.
The Italian has now beaten top-10 ranked players in successive matches - she defeated Angelique Kerber on Wednesday - and has yet to drop a set in Dubai.
World number nine Stosur towered over the diminutive Vinci, but she was guilty of trying to be too aggressive, clubbing a succession of backhand returns into the net. Vinci, who with partner Errani are the top-ranked doubles pairing, is a percentage player, relying more on her opponent’s mistakes than going for winners herself and Stosur’s approach played into the Italian’s hands.
Serving at 4-2 down, Stosur ran to the net but Vinci, world No.17, played an angled backhand dropshot winner for a break point.
The Italian duly converted after Stosur, backpedalling from the net, hit a smash long. Stosur then surrendered the set with another errant backhand. The Australian broke for the first time early in the second set and also changed tactics, slowing the game down and matching Vinci’s backhand slice. Agencies