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All eyes on Serena Williams in Dubai tourney

Dubai: Serena Williams' bid to extend her phenomenal career into her 33rd year will take a tentative but crucial step forward when she unexpectedly lines up at the head of the field for the Dubai Open which starts today. Serena had planned to give the lucrative tournament with prize money of USD 2 million a miss until a back injury at last month's Australian Open altered the shape of her year.

Serena Williams. Pic/Getty Images
Serena Williams. Pic/Getty Images 

She needs to prove that it won't alter the shape of her career either. Serena has already confounded countless predictions by recovering from a hematoma and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and improbably regaining the World No 1 ranking a year ago. But injuries at this age, especially back injuries, can be a cause for anxiety.

Last-minute wildcard
Had she not accepted this last minute wild card and been prepared to travel to the Middle East she would have had gone two months without competition. She withdrew from this week's Qatar Open because of the bad back, declined on principle to play at Indian Wells, and was scheduled to appear next at Miami in mid-March. All that follows two months of the off-season. Without Dubai, Serena would have played only eight matches in four and a half months.

Strong playing field
Serena has never won the Dubai title and has not appeared there since 2009. Serena is seeded for a final with Agnieszka Radwanska and could start against Ekaterina Makarova with a semi-final against Petra Kvitova on the cards.

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