No. 1 Serena Williams has accepted a last-minute wild card into next week's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which will now include seven of the WTA Tour's top 10.
The 32-year-old American has not taken the court in Dubai since 2009, where she lost to her sister Venus in the semifinals. Venus also took a wild card into this year's tournament.
Serena withdrew from this week's Qatar Open, citing the back injury that hampered her at the Australian Open, where she lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round.
Williams' decision to play Dubai is a smart one, given she won't be playing the BNP Paribas Open, one of the biggest mandatory tournaments, in March. If she had skipped the entire Middle East swing, Williams would have sat out for two months before her next scheduled tournament, the Sony Open in Miami beginning March 18. Entering Dubai, a tournament she has never won, means she isn't concerned about her back and she's hungry for competition.
In fact, her intensity was pretty evident in this tweet from earlier this week:
Hit today with @pmouratoglou not sure if he will want to hit with me again cauz I'm Crazy intense on practice court. #relaxrenaThe other top-10 players in the field are defending champion Petra Kvitova, 2012 champion Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 7 Sara Errani, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 9 Angelique Kerber and No. 10 Simona Halep.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) February 10, 2014