Eight of the world’s top 10 WTA players ready for Dubai Duty Free Tennis starting Monday

Eight of the world’s top 10 WTA players ready for Dubai Duty Free Tennis starting Monday
Eight of the world’s top 10 WTA players ready for Dubai Duty Free Tennis starting Monday

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DUBAI: An exciting week of tennis awaits fans in Dubai with eight of the world’s top-10 players of the WTA tour ready to do battle at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis stadium starting Monday.

Here are some of the main storylines to look out for this week in the emirate.


Loaded draw features blockbuster first rounds

In one of the most stacked WTA draws in tournament history, four former Dubai champions and eight Grand Slam winners will be competing at the Aviation Club this year.

With Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova being the only two top-10 players missing out on the action in Dubai, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka headlines a stellar field.

Such is the strength and depth of the women’s draw this year that defending champion and No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza will be facing world No. 11 and recent Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins in the first round.

In another mouth-watering opening clash, two Grand Slam champions will square off in the form of Sofia Kenin and Jelena Ostapenko.

Former French Open winner Iga Swiatek, the No. 6 seed, will begin her campaign against world No. 21 Daria Kasatkina, who was a finalist in Dubai in 2018.

Two top-20 Americans, Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, will meet in another exciting first round while 2013 Dubai champion Petra Kvitova will open against reigning Canadian Open champion Camila Giorgi.

Tough path for the reigning champ

If Muguruza plans on defending her Dubai title this week, she’ll have to do it the hard way. Should the Spanish two-time Grand Slam winner move past Collins in the first round, she could get former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka next, with an in-form Anett Kontaveit possibly waiting for her in the quarter-finals.

World No. 3 Barbora Krejcikova, who lost to Muguruza in last year’s Dubai final, or No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari, are potential semifinal opponents for the Spaniard.

The good news for Muguruza is that she seems in a relaxed and jovial mood as she warmed up for the tournament by enjoying a fun expedition in the Dubai desert with her team ahead of the weekend.


Halep flying solo

Two-time Dubai champion and former world No. 1 Simona Halep will be contesting her first tournament without a coach, having parted ways with Daniel Dobre and Adrian Marcu following her Australian Open fourth-round exit last month.

The Romanian plays American Alison Riske in the first round before a possible last-16 meeting with No. 3 seed Paula Badosa.

Halep, who spent six years working with Australian Darren Cahill up until September last year, says she’s looking to enjoy the freedom of being without a coach for the time being and is only traveling with a hitting partner at the moment.


Collins keen to build on Australian Open success

After a maiden Grand Slam final appearance in Melbourne last month, Collins is ready to look ahead to the rest of the season, which begins with a brutal opening date with Muguruza.

It is a challenge the 28-year-old American is very much looking forward to, especially knowing that she has edged Muguruza in three sets in their most recent meeting on tour (they are 1-1 head-to-head overall).

“I think in these tournaments, having smaller draws, you’re always going to face a tough opponent, no matter what they’re ranked, especially with the depth that we have across the board,” said Collins on Saturday.

“Playing Garbine in the first round, I think it’s going to be a great match. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun out there. What better preparation for the rest of the year to be able to go into starting a tournament playing against such an accomplished opponent?”

Arab duo look to shine

Two Arab women are present in the main draw this week with Tunisian Ons Jabeur seeded No. 8 and Egyptian Mayar Sherif awarded a wildcard.

Jabeur, who has played some brilliant matches in the Middle East in the past, faces Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva in round one, while Sherif will make her tournament debut against Estonian No. 7 seed Kontaveit.

“It’s very important for us to support Arab tennis. The UAE has a great relationship with Egypt as well so it’s important for us to have this kind of bond and cooperation with Egypt,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak at the draw ceremony on Saturday.

“Having Mayar Sherif and Ons Jabeur in the draw gives a great Arab flavour to our tournament.”

Jabeur, who is the first Arab player in history to be ranked inside the top 10, is returning from a back injury that forced her to miss the Australian Open last month.

Crowds return to DDF Tennis stadium

After being staged behind closed doors last year due to the pandemic, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will welcome fans at 100 percent capacity this fortnight, thanks to a new directive from the government.

“I’m really excited for the start of this tournament,” said two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina on Saturday.  

“I’m always really looking forward to get back to these courts. I have amazing memories playing a couple of semifinals here and winning twice back-to-back is definitely very special.

“It was the first time I entered the top 10 when I won here in 2017 so it’s really special for me. Playing in front of many fans who are coming to Dubai is always great.”



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