Big names are continuing to pull out of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open in Doha, with Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina, Bianca Andreescu, Garbiñe Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit joining Aryna Sabalenka on the absentee list.
Unfortunately I’m not gonna go to Doha. I'm really looking forward to come back next year but this time I'm not going. Schedule-wise it's not easy to travel so much. I played really well in Melbourne so it's really better for me just to rest & prepare the next week. Elena Rybakina
Jabeur, the World No 3, who also withdrew from this week’s Abu Dhabi 500 tournament, is opting to have minor surgery, but the 28-year-old did not give any details about the operation or why it is required in her announcement on Wednesday.
“In order to take care of my health situation, my medical team have decided that I need to get a minor surgery in order to be able to be back on the courts and perform well,” Jabeur wrote on Instagram. “I will have to retire from Doha and Dubai and this is breaking my heart.
“I would like to say sorry to all the fans out there in the Middle East that waited for this reunion. I promise I will come back to you stronger and healthy.”
Jabeur crashed out of the 2nd-round of the Australian Open last month after an error-strewn display in a 6-1 5-7 6-1 loss to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, and collapsed in tears after leaving the court.
“It’s not a big injury, but sometimes it might bother me,” she told press after her 1st-round defeat of Tamara Zidansek. “I try to take it one day at a time. It’s a great challenge, you know.”
The Tunisian was named the Peace Champion of the Year at the Peace and Sport Awards, a Monaco-based charity known best for the White Card campaign its runs annually on 6 April, at the Awards ceremony to conclude its International Forum.
Jabeur became the first Arab and African player to reach a women’s singles Grand Slam final last year at Wimbledon, and repeated the feat at the US Open.
Peace and Sport described Jabeur as ‘a source of inspiration for women and youth around the world’.
The latest player to withdraw from Doha is reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who said: “Unfortunately I’m not gonna go to Doha. I’m really looking forward to come back next year but this time I’m not going.
“Schedule-wise it’s not easy to travel so much. I played really well in Melbourne so it’s really better for me just to rest & prepare the next week.”
Rybakina reached the final of the Australian Open and was a strong contender to win the title but lost in 3 sets to Sabalenka.
It seems the Kazakh did not make the cut in Doha as the ranking list used for entries did not yet take into account her run in Melbourne which saw her reach the Top 10, and she would have had to play qualifying adding 2 rounds of matches to her workload.
She is still in Abu Dhabi, where she takes on Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals on Thursday, and remains on the entry list for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the WTA 1000 that begins on 19 February.
Meanwhile, Andreescu has withdrawn from next week’s tournament following a suspected shoulder injury.
The World No 37 from Canada recently retired during her semi-final of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after receiving treatment for a shoulder problem on the court.
Soon after, Andreescu reassured fans on Twitter that all was well and she would make the Middle Eastern swing starting with the Abu Dhabi this week, but the 22-year-old looked out of sorts when losing to qualifier Yulia Putintseva in the 1st-round on Tuesday night when it became clear that she was not 100% fit.
The hope is that, by resting during the Doha week, the former US Open champion will be fit enough to take part in the swing-ending Dubai event.
In her spot comes 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who was beaten in straight sets by Liudmila Samsonova in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Next on the entry list for Doha is recent AO semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, who is currently lined up to play qualifying for the event barring anymore injuries or withdrawals.
Former World No 1 and 2-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza withdrew ahead of her match in Abu Dhabi due to personal reasons and has since taken her name off the Doha entry list, while Kontaveit, ranked No 18, has also pulled out.
The Estonian has been dogged with lower back problems and had to take medical breaks during her 1st-round match against Zhang Shuai from China on Monday, and again in her round two encounter with American Shelby Rogers, after which she retired in the 3rd set.
The 27-year old is defending 500 points this week, and 600 in Doha where she was the runner-up to Iga Swiatek last year, and it is now likely she drop out the Top 50 in two weeks time.
The Doha WTA500 tournament runs from 13-18 February, and will see World No 1 Swiatek in action in defence of the title that kicked off her remarkable 37 match winning streak last year, while the WTA1000 Dubai starts the day after.