Karolina Pliskova in a file photo. The defending champion will start her BMW Malaysian Open campaign against Serbian Aleksandra Krunic. – EPA Photo
KUALA LUMUR: Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams of the US has withdrawn from the BMW Malaysian Open at the eleventh hour due to a throat infection.
The former number one was supposed to be the top drawcard for this year’s Malaysian Open, which will take place at the Royal Selangor Golf Club from Monday.
However, Venus, the sister of current world number one Serena, made known her decision just before the draw was finalised on Saturday.
Venus, who was ranked world No. 1 by the WTA for the first time in February of 2002, is recovering from a severe throat infection and her withdrawal will give others the opportunity to make an impact.
Venus was also invited to play in the 2012 edition but withdrew due to illness.
“Although I cannot play in the Malaysian Open, I will be in Kuala Lumpur to honour my obligations to the sponsors and attend the Women@Work forum on April 17,” said Venus in a statement.
The forum is being organised in conjunction with the tennis tournament.
Saturday’s draw saw this year’s Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia having a tricky path as the top seed.
The world number 10 is hoping to make a winning debut in her quest to record a fifth Tour title but will face strong challenges from the second round onwards in the 32-player tournament.
Dominika will play either 2012 champion Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan or wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia for a spot in the quarter-finals if she wins the opener against a qualifier.
Jarmila, on the other hand, will be gunning for revenge following her defeat to the Taiwan player in the semi-finals of the Malaysian Open two years ago.
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova, the third seed and world number 67, will start her campaign against Serbian Aleksandra Krunic.
If she succeeds, Czech Republic-born Karolina will face a qualifier in the second round.
“I have never entered a Tour tournament as a defending champion. I admit there is pressure. However, I am excited and looking forward to making an impression in KL,” said Karolina at the draw on Saturday.
“I have never played Aleksandra but my twin sister, Kristyna has. I will get feedback from her on how to play Aleksandra.”
On her targets this year, Karolina said her aim is to reach the top 15 by the end of the season but achieving it will be tough.
“Winning last year’s Malaysian Open helped me move into the top 100 for the first time. I am now the world No. 67 and hopefully I can go far here and earn more points,” added Karolina, a finalist at the recent Pattaya Open.
In other interesting first round matches, China’s Zhang Shuai, the second seed and world number 46 will face compatriot Zheng Saisai while Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, the WTA Tour’s oldest player, takes on Calga Buyukakcay of Turkey.
Barring upsets, Dominika should set up a date with Karolina in the semi-finals while Zhang Shuai is poised to meet Austria’s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner for a spot in the final.