Player withdrawals hit men's Dubai tennis event

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Dubai Tennis Championships will start next week without five of the top seven men's players scheduled to compete at the ATP Tour event, mostly because of injuries.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal (knee) and second-ranked Roger Federer (back) withdrew earlier this week. The tournament has since lost defending champion Andy Roddick of the United States, No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko (undisclosed injury) and No. 9 Fernando Verdasco (ankle).

That leaves No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain as the top two seeds in the draw announced Saturday for the $2 million tournament.

Roddick said Friday he won't attend because he doesn't agree with the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny Israeli Shahar Peer a visa to play in the women's tournament this week. But Dubai tournament officials said if Roddick reaches Sunday's final in Memphis, Tenn., it would be impossible for him to arrive in Dubai for his expected opening-round match on Monday.

Israeli player Andy Ram was granted a visa for the tournament on Thursday. Peer was denied entry into the country a week ago, with tournament organizers citing security concerns. On Saturday, organizers said Ram would have security needed to play.

Last year, Murray knocked out Federer in the first round of the tournament. He'll face No. 79 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

"The draw is definitely a bit different from last year, but we were not expecting it," Murray said. "They (the organizers) obviously had a great field lined up and some of the guys got injured. But it is certainly nice that I don't have to play a first round against Federer."

Top-seeded Djokovic, who is playing in France this week, will play a qualifier in the opening round.

Third-seeded Giles Simon of France faces Kuwaiti wild card Mohammed Ghareeb and fourth-seeded David Ferrer will face Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia.

Marat Safin, Nicolas Kiefer and Ghareeb were added as wild cards.