Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys pull out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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Maria Sharapova‘s long-awaited return to Dubai will no longer happen this month as the Russian ex-world No. 1 announced her withdrawal from the tournament.

Sharapova’s last — and only — appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was in 2006, and she had accepted a wildcard into next week’s event.

But the five-time Grand Slam champion has pulled out citing injury (reportedly feeling pain in her forearms) and it is yet to be determined who will be taking her wildcard instead.

Sharapova lost her opener in Doha last Monday to Monica Niculescu in three sets and is currently ranked No. 41 in the world. She is 21-10 win-loss since she returned from her doping ban last April.

American world No. 14 Madison Keys, who was meant to make her Dubai debut next week, has also withdrawn due to illness.

Keys, last year’s US Open runner-up, lost her Doha second round to Catherine ‘CiCi’ Bellis 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately both Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys have regretfully had to withdraw from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships due to injury and illness,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak.

“We are sorry that neither Maria nor Madison will be able to play in Dubai, but we still have one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the WTA event. Maria said that she is very sorry she cannot be here and hopes to come back next year. We wish her and Madison a speedy recovery.”

The WTA tournament at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins on Monday February 19 and concludes on Saturday February 24, with the ATP event kicking off on Monday February 26.

World No. 2 Simona Halep will headline the field along with defending champion, world No. 3 Elina Svitolina and reigning Wimbledon champion, world No. 4 Garbine Muguruza.

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