Ailing Serena pulls out of Dubai tournament

Updated 20 February 2013
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Ailing Serena pulls out of Dubai tournament

DUBAI: Serena Williams has pulled out of the $2,000,000 Dubai Open, partly to consolidate her remarkable return to world number one two days ago by focusing on her home tournament, in Miami, in the second half of next month.
“I am just not well — it’s my back,” Serena explained. “All athletes really get this.
“I really can’t move. It would be a horrible performance for you guys. It’s just really sad for all of us. I hope to continue here, but unfortunately it won’t be this year.”
Yesterday’s belated and unexpected withdrawal follows that of Victoria Azarenka two days ago, which ensured that Williams would hang on to the top spot at least until the end of the Miami event on March 31st.
Azarenka, who beat Serena to defend her Qatar Open title last Sunday, cited a bruised heel as her reason for pulling out.
Williams competed last week with back and ankle injuries and a bad cold, but said Tuesday that she felt “so much better already,” before revealing she would not be appearing.
The 15 times Grand Slam winner also made it clear that having regained the pinnacle after two-and-a-half years during which her life and career were threatened following a freak 2010 foot injury which resulted in a pulmonary embolism it is no longer her main goal.
“OK, I have done it, let’s focus on my next goals which are the Grand Slams. I really want to continue doing really well in those,” Williams said, admitting that she already had at least half an eye on the French Open in Paris, starting on May 26th.
These absences are a hammer blow to a popular tournament which had already been without the sport’s two highest earners, Maria Sharapova and Li Na (according to Forbes magazine), and is now without any of the sport’s marquee names.
It is also a blow to the WTA, which has worked hard to introduce incentives and regulations to reduce the number of withdrawals from its tournaments.
Meanwhile, it increases the chances of Agnieszka Radwanska making a successful defense of her title which began with the world No. 4 from Poland making a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3 win over Yulia Putintseva, a highly promising 18-year-old wild card entry who broke serve to lead 4-3 in the first set.
The other front runners appear to be Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No. 1 from Denmark, and Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic.
Wozniacki won the title here two years ago, and again seemed comfortable in cool conditions by trouncing Zheng Jie, the former Wimbledon semifinalist from China, 6-0, 6-1.
She now plays Marion Bartoli, the former Wimbledon finalist from France, who enjoyed her second piece of good luck with her walkover against Williams.
Bartoli was earlier given a wild card into the tournament after submitting her entry late.
Kvitova, who was in great form last week, coming close to beating Williams, now overcame Ana Ivanovic, the former French Open champion from Serbia, 7-5, 7-6 (7-1), and now plays Radwanska.
Earlier, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber, the fourth-seeded German who has been struggling with a back injury, was beaten 7-5, 6-1 by Roberta Vinci, the top 20 Italian, who had already accounted for Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former US and French Open champion.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic rules out international return at the World Cup for Sweden

Updated 3 min 56 sec ago
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic rules out international return at the World Cup for Sweden

Ending weeks of speculation, the Swedish football federation announced Thursday that star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who quit the national squad in 2016, will not make a comeback for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“I spoke with Zlatan on Tuesday. He said that he has not changed his mind regarding the national squad,” the managing director of the national squad, Lars Richt, said in a statement after the player dropped numerous hints of a possible return.
“It’s a no,” Richt added.
In an appearance on ABC television’s late night Jimmy Kimmel show on April 18, the new star of LA Galaxy teased fans that he may come out of retirement to play in the showpiece.
Known for his swagger, Zlatan said “it wouldn’t be a World Cup” if he didn’t play, clearly forgetting he has not played in one since 2006, before adding: “I’m going to the World Cup, yes.”
The 36-year-old retired from the Swedish team after the 2016 European Championship. He said last month he wanted to concentrate on settling into his new life in Major League Soccer before thinking about the World Cup.
Following an injury-blighted stay at Manchester United, the father of two became the latest in a long line of aging stars to leave European football for the US.
The 6ft 4ins (1.95m) striker tweeted on April 15: “The chance of me playing in the World Cup is skyhöga (sky high).”
He later told Swedish media that “high odds — that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
Ibrahimovic had just weeks earlier become a global brand ambassador for Swedish betting company Bethard, prompting some Swedish commentators to lament that his World Cup teasing was nothing more than an advertising gimmick.
“It feels like the whole thing was just aimed at building up his brand in the US and it even seemed at times like he thought it was funny,” Daniel Nannskog, a commentator for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, said.
At home in Sweden, Ibrahimovic’s possible World Cup return elicited mixed reactions.
Sweden coach Janne Andersson has been coolly indifferent.
“It doesn’t change anything for me,” he said last month.
“Zlatan is very welcome to call me” if he wants to join the squad, Andersson added.
Richt declined to specify whether the team had asked Ibrahimovic to join.
He “has always said that he won’t play and he quit the national team,” Richt told AFP.
Some Sweden fans would love nothing more than to see the country’s most prolific goal-scorer — he notched 62 goals in 116 games — don the blue-and-yellow kit again.
But others argue he has no place on a squad that managed to qualify without him, memorably eliminating World Cup giants Italy in a playoff.
Ibrahimovic has 31 winners’ medals in spells with Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.
But his 2017 season and ultimately his United career was brought to a premature end by cruciate ligament damage suffered in April.
He never returned as a regular in the United side.
In trademark style, he announced his arrival in Los Angeles with a full-page advert in the LA Times reading simply: “Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome.”