All eyes on Kenin and Clijsters as DDF Tennis C’ships clock glorious 20 years - GulfToday

All eyes on Kenin and Clijsters as DDF Tennis C’ships clock glorious 20 years


Sofia Kenin enjoys a camel ride in Dubai. Kenin will start her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships campaign against Elena Rybakina. Courtesy: Sofia Kenin Twitter

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

With Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships set to celebrate two decades of successfully hosting one of the WTA Tour’s top events this week, all eyes will be on Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and veteran Kim Clijsters, who will be making a comeback to the courts after deciding to retire for a second time in 2012.

When Dubai opened its door to the WTA Tour in 2001, no-one could have possibly imagined that over the next 20 years almost every top player in the world would come here to perform on one of the most magnificent Centre Courts in the world.

Last month, Sofia Kenin astounded everyone by claiming victory over two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza in a thrilling final.

Kenin, who was born in Moscow before emigrating to the US not long after her birth, will play her first tour event since lifting her maiden Grand Slam trophy in Melbourne and will start her campaign against World No.25 Elena Rybakina.

Rybakina started her 2020 season by reaching the final in Shenzhen and winning the title in Hobart.

The 36-year-old Clijsters, who surprised the tennis world late last year when she announced her intent to return to tennis seven years after playing her last match at the 2012 US Open, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017.

She has never competed in Dubai before, and is thrilled to finally join the stellar cast competing for the trophy.

“I am really excited to be getting back to the match court. I know it’s a 20th anniversary celebrations for the Dubai Duty Free Championships so it’s an honour to be making my return to the game and debut in Dubai at the same time.

“I can’t wait to return to the game I love and play in front of the fans again - the support and encouragement that I’ve received since the announcement has been overwhelming,” she added.

The Belgian joins an incredible line-up that includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, defending Dubai champion Belinda Bencic and recent Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova.

One of only six women in tennis history to simultaneously top the world rankings in singles and doubles, Clijsters held the world number one ranking for 19 weeks before her original retirement. She comes to Dubai having won four Grand Slam singles titles – the 2011 Australian Open and 2005, 2009 and 2010 US Open – and two doubles titles, the 2003 French Open and Wimbledon, as well as three WTA Finals singles titles.

She retired from tennis in 2007, taking a break to start a family, and when she made her comeback to the sport she enjoyed arguably the most successful period of her distinguished career as she claimed three of her four Grand Slam titles and returned to the top of the rankings in 2011.

Famous in the world for attracting top players, the Dubai WTA event made history and became a trailblazer for women’s tennis in 2005 when it made the decision to offer equal prize money to both women and men, becoming only the third professional tennis event after the US Open and Australian Opens and the first outside of the Grand Slams to do so.

“We were one of the first tournaments to introduce equal prize money for the WTA players back in 2005 and we have remained committed to such equality,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Dubai Duty Free.

“We have been delighted to do so, not only because we believe it is the right thing to do but it is in recognition of the growth and popularity of women’s tennis around the world. We eagerly look forward to seeing what the future years have in store.”

“Through every year of the past two decades we have been entertained by so many legends of the game and witnessed not only their victories but also so many upsets along the way,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.

“In such a competitive field no player has been able to take success for granted, and that has made each and every day a thrilling experience. We can look forward to many more,” Tahlak added.

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