Serena Williams withdrew from the Dubai Championships on Wednesday with a bad back. (Osama Faisal/AP)
Serena Williams described the decision to deny Svetlana Kuznetsova a wild card into the Dubai Championships as "weird." Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 2, dropped out of the top 50 after a knee injury curtailed her 2012 season. Since her return in January, Kuznetsova has notched three top-10 wins, made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and improved from No. 71 to No. 48 this week.
Still ranked outside of the main-draw cutoff for Dubai, Kuznetsova requested a wild card. She was denied, with wild cards going to two players ranked ahead of her, No. 11 Marion Bartoli and No. 43 Laura Robson, and one going to 18-year-old Yulia Putintseva, who is ranked outside the top 100.
Williams said that if it happened to her, she would have skipped the tournament.
“She’s won a couple of Grand Slams, so it’s like how can such a great player not get a wild card?" she told reporters in Dubai before withdrawing from the tournament, citing a back injury.
Instead, Kuznetsova was forced to play the qualifying tournament, winning three matches over the weekend to earn her spot in the draw, where she lost to Roberta Vinci in the first round Tuesday.
“I read what Serena said, that she wouldn't play the tournament," Kuznetsova said. "The thing is, there aren’t so many tournaments to play. I wouldn't play it, either, you know, because I think I deserve to have a wild card.
“But in my situation, I just have to go through this patch. Not many players that would say just ‘I'm not gonna play.’ But there’s also a good way to look at it. That I have to still be humble. I still have to prove that I can do it and I can go through qualies.
“It's very weird, believe me, to play qualies. You're like you cannot turn yourself on, like where am I? Am I playing qualies for real?