Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams have withdrawn from the Western & Southern Open.
Qualifying starts Saturday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Clijsters, world no. 2 and defending champion, pulled out because of the left abdominal injury she sustained earlier this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, according to the Women’s Tennis Association.
A consecutive title at the W&S would have made the 28-year-old Belgian the first repeat women’s champ since the WTA returned here seven years ago.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to Cincinnati this year,” Clijsters said in a release. “It is very disappointing because I love playing in Cincinnati and I was looking forward to defending my title. And (daughter) Jada was also looking forward to it.”
This is the second straight year Williams has withdrawn from the W&S.
The Women’s Tennis Association’s 34th-ranked player is still recovering from the viral illness that forced her to withdraw from the Rogers Cup last week. In 2010, she missed the W&S with left knee pain.
“I regret not having the opportunity to compete in the Western and Southern Open this year,” Williams said. “I am making progress towards recovering from a viral illness that began affecting me last week, and have plans to return to the practice court in the coming days. I am optimistic that I will be ready for the US Open at the end of this month.”
Williams’ only W&S appearance was in 2009; she lost to Flavia Pennetta in the Round of 16.
Three other players have already withdrawn from the women’s field: Dominika Cibulkova, Kaia Kanepi and Alexandra Dulgheru. On the men’s side, Robin Soderling, Ivan Ljubicic, Milos Raonic, Tommy Robredo and Lleyton Hewitt have withdrawn.
(Shannon Russell contributed to this story)