Australian Open champion Osaka pulls out of Qatar Open

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru/Doha, February 6: Australian Open champion and women's world No.1 Naomi Osaka of Japan has been forced to pull out of the ensuing Qatar Total Open 2019 due to back injury.

The Premier WTA Tour tournament will be held at Doha's Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex from February 11 to 16.

"I'm sorry to have to withdraw from Doha this year as I was looking forward to playing and seeing my fans there. I wish everyone a great week and hope to see everyone next year," said Osaka.

The 21-year-old made her debut in the Doha event last year where she suffered a second round loss to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

With her withdrawal, world No. 3 and 2014 champion Simona Halep of Romania is now the top seeded player. The former world No. 1 will be joined by other superstars including Angelique Kerber; a three-time Grand Slam champion and 2014 finalist and Karolina Pliskova, the 2017 champion among others.

"Osaka will surely be missed at this year's tournament. Tennis fans in Doha were definitely looking forward to see the newly-crowned Australian Open champion in action, but we understand that her health and fitness comes first. We wish her the best as she recovers from the injury while we hope to welcome her next year," said Tournament Director Saad Saleh Al Mohannadi.

Held since 2001, the Qatar Total Open has grown to become one of the biggest WTA Tour events in the region and it has consistently featured the world's top ten players on a regular basis.

The last edition was won by Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova of Czech republic who beat Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a thrilling encounter.

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