Halep pulls out as Thiem seeks to make history at Dubai Open - GulfToday

Halep pulls out as Thiem seeks to make history at Dubai Open

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem is looking to be the first Austrian to lift the Dubai Open title since Thomas Muster achieved the feat in 1997.

Organisers of the Dubai Duty Free (DDF) Tennis Championships have announced defending champion Simona Halep has withdrawn from the tournament.

Halep, who was due to compete in Dubai for the eighth time, was looking forward to defending her title but has withdrawn with a lower back complaint.

Halep said: “Unfortunately I am not feeling 100 per cent in my lower back, and I have made the tough decision to withdraw from the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I have great memories from winning my 20th WTA title after some really tough matches in Dubai last year so I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to defend my title.

“Wishing the DDF team and everyone involved a successful tournament and I can’t wait to be back next year.”

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, wished Halep well in her recovery.

“We would have loved to see Simona back in Dubai but we respect her decision to put her health first. We hope she starts to feel better and we see her back on the court again soon.”

Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem will bid to become the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1997 to lift the DDF Tennis Championships Trophy when the tournament gets underway in just a few days from now.

The reigning US Open champion will be the top seed and he will hope to emulate his legendary countryman, who overcame Goran Ivanisevic in a thrilling finale to claim the title. Since then no other player from Austria, man or woman, has managed to land the coveted prize.

Thiem, who as well as defeating Alexander Zverev to win the 2020 US Open reached the final of both the 2018 and 2019 French Opens and the 2020 Australian Open, also reached the final of the ATP Tour Finals in the past two seasons. But he has some catching up to do in Dubai, where in only his previous appearance in 2015 he fell in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut.

“Dominic Thiem has already proven that he is worthy to be named alongside Thomas Muster as one of the greatest tennis players that Austria has produced,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “His results, particularly over the past two seasons, have often been spectacular, and we very much look forward to welcoming him back to Dubai.”

Thiem will certainly provide excitement as well as showcase the skills that have seen him achieve outstanding results against the very best in the game.

His US Open triumph was full of drama as he fought his way back from two sets down to claim his 17th career title in a fifth tie-break.

He was the first player to win the US Open in a final set tie-break, the first to win there from two sets down since Pancho Gonzales in 1949, and the first to win any Grand Slam from two sets down since Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open.

Having come so close to claiming his maiden Grand Slam crown three times before, the victory was a lifetime ambition and was a huge relief to him.

“Yeah, definitely I achieved a life goal, a dream for myself, which I had for many, many years,” he said after the final.

“Of course, as a kid when I started to play tennis, back then it’s so far away. Then I got closer and closer to the top.

“At one point I realised that, ‘Wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis’. I put a lot of work in. I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it. That’s also for myself a great accomplishment.”

Thiem’s chase for the title starts on 14th March and will follow  the star-studded WTA1000 week which begins on March 7 and will feature defending champion Simona Halep, former Dubai winners Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina and Belinda Bencic, 2020 US Open runner-up and WTA Comeback Player of the Year Victoria Azarenka, 2021 Abu Dhabi winner Aryna Sabalenka, 2020 French Open and 2021 Adelaide champion Iga Swiatek, former two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza and Tunisian sensation Ons Jabeur.

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