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Tennis | WTA

Svetlana Kuznetsova © Gallo Images

Kuznetsova's treatment 'weird’ - Serena

Serena Williams sprang to the defence of a fellow former US Open champion whose exclusion from the main draw of the Dubai Open this week had surprised some people.

The world No 1 called it "weird" that Svetlana Kuznetsova, a winner of two Grand Slam titles, a former Dubai finalist, and someone she considers "a great player", has not been given a wild card into the main draw of the US $2 000 000 tournament.

Kuznetsova suffered a knee injury which for two months put her on crutches, and was followed by many weeks of rehab, forcing her to miss every tournament after Wimbledon last year.

The six months' absence caused the Russian's ranking to plummet to 85, but she showed she is recovering by producing wins over two top 20 players last month which lifted her back into the top 50.

However the Dubai Open prefers a policy of encouraging youth, giving wild cards to Laura Robson and Yulia Putintseva, two promising teenagers, and to Marion Bartoli, the world number 11 who offered her entry too late for the deadline, but whose presence is considered an asset to the tournament.

"You know I definitely think it's tough," said Williams, suggesting that she would not have played in the tournament if she had been placed in Kuznetsova's situation.

"She's been such a great player, and she got injured. She's won a couple of Grand Slams, so how can such a great player not get a wild card? It's kind of weird."

Instead Kuznetsova won through three rounds of the qualifying competition before being landed with a first round against Roberta Vinci, the world number 17, on an outside court. There she failed to do herself justice in a 6-3, 6-2 defeat.

"I read what Serena said, that she wouldn't play the tournament," said Kuznetsova. "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 would say just, you know, I'm not gonna play. That's also a good way to look at it. Then I see another way, that I have to still be humble.

"I still have to prove that I can do it and that I can go through qualifiers. It's very weird, believe me, to play qualifiers. You're like you cannot turn yourself on, like where I am? Am I playing qualifiers for real?

"It is so weird, but still I made it through (to the main draw) and I hope I don't have to do it again," added Kuznetsova.

"I do feel that I deserve a wild card, but, you know, sometimes there are hard situations. But I appreciate the support of Serena."

Williams' support for the 27-year-old went further.

"She'll be back and then she'll be fine," the 15-time Grand Slam winner reckoned. "She doesn't have a lot to worry about."

Meanwhile Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic, again showed evidence of an encouraging surge in form and fitness.

She followed her tight match with Williams in Doha last week with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Daniela Hantuchova, the former world No 5 from Slovakia, 6-1, 6-2, and is one win from a possible quarterfinal meeting with the defending champion, Agnieszka Radwanska.

Later Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No 1 from Denmark who won the title here two years ago, overcame Lucie Safarova, the world number 18 from the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-2, and moved within one win of a possible quarterfinal with Williams.

The world No 1 begins her campaign to win the title for the first time against Bartoli on Wednesday.


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