DUBAI: Holder Simona Halep is back to head a field at the Dubai Tennis Championships which has been seriously weakened by the late withdrawals of Serena Williams and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber
What had looked to be a strong start to the post-Melbourne season began deteriorating last week as the pullouts due to various aliments and injuries mounted prior to Monday’s first day at the Aviation Club.
In addition to world number one Williams and Germany’s Kerber, other absentees include 2012 champion Agnieszka Radwanska, Russian star Maria Sharapova and 2011 winner Caroline Wozniacki.
Halep, second seeded Garbine Mugu¬ruza, her fellow Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro and number four Petra Kvitova all have byes into the second round.
Due to late decisions and changes of heart, Halep, Kvitova and Karolina Plis¬kova all needed wild cards into the draw.
The presence of Halep was a particularly close call, with the Romanian originally planning to miss the outdoor hard court tournament to have surgery on her nose.
At the time she made the decision in the wake of a first-round loss at the Australian Open to Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai, the choice seemed logical.
But a Fed Cup win this month over Kvi¬tova suddenly gave Halep hope and she has now postponed her procedure indefinitely.
The world number three said that she felt fine during the Fed Cup, so why bother to pause: “I’m not sure. Now that I’ve started to play good tennis, I don’t want to stop again.
“I’ve had long breaks before, many antibiotics, and I have to stay a little bit away from them. And then we’ll see — maybe this year I have to do it, because it’s better for me.”