After clinching her 19th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month while struggling with a persistent virus, Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Dubai Open.

She has been suffering from a nagging cough since that triumph and was forced to sit out the second day of the United States’ 4-1 FedCup win over Argentina in Buenos Aires last weekend. Her withdrawal from Dubai is believed to be due to the same virus.

The world number one made it clear at the start of the year that she must restrict her schedule if she is to have a chance of winning the three more Grand Slam titles needed to reach Steffi Graf’s open era record of 22 – and her Dubai pull-out underlines her determination to do this.

It is, however, the second time in three years that Williams has pulled out of the popular and lucrative Middle East tournament, something which may not help the American’s image in this region, especially as she has also failed to win it in four attempts.

It may, though, give her a better chance of doing well at her next tournament, Indian Wells, early in March which will be a significance achievement for her and for her sister Venus Williams.


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