Defending champion Kuznetsova pulls out of China Open

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BEIJING, Sep 19 (Reuters) Defending champion and top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova pulled out of the China Open today because of an abdominal injury.

The world number two had lost a US Open final and led Russia to victory in the Fed Cup final over the last two weekends before arriving in Beijing to defend the title she won against Amelie Mauresmo last year.

''I have an abdominal muscle strain and it's getting worse and worse,'' the 22-year-old told a news conference.

''I came here and had lots of treatments but unfortunately I just cannot serve.'' The former US Open champion said the injury had hindered her during the Fed Cup triumph against Italy at the weekend.

After receiving a bye for the first round, Kuznetsova had been due to play American Abigail Spears on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals. Her place was taken by Argentine Ma Emilia Salerni.

World number one Justine Henin, who beat Kuznetsova in the US Open final, pulled out of the 600,000 dollars tournament last week because of a respiratory complaint.

The China Open, which features back-to-back men's and women's tournaments over two weeks just after the US Open, has suffered from a string of big-name withdrawals over the last four years.

From 2009, the Chinese capital will host one of the WTA ''crown jewel'' events with a million prize pot.

REUTERS BJR BST1316

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