Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
From left: Salah Tahlak, Colm McLoughlin and Belinda Bencic during the draw at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Saturday.
Top seed Elina Svitolina could begin her bid for a third Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships crown against former two-time Grand Slam winner and three-time Dubai finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova as play gets underway at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium this week.
The 2017 and 2018 champion receives a first round bye, and will then face either Kuznetsova or Qiang Wang. And should she progress to the quarter-finals, Svitolina could then find 2019 winner and number six seed Belinda Bencic in her path.
“It is clear that there will be many intriguing matches during the coming week, not least in the early rounds,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We welcome the players and officials and look forward to seeing so many of the world’s top players entertain us.
With the top eight seeds receiving first round byes, it is in the second round that further dramatic clashes could occur. The most intriguing is between seventh seed and 2020 US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, although Kerber has to first overcome Caroline Garcia.
A mouth-watering third round clash could take place between reigning French Open champion and number eight seed Iga Swiatek and former Wimbledon and French Open winner Garbine Muguruza, while another third round battle could see fourth seed, two-time Wimbledon winner and former Dubai champion Petra Kvitova play 2020 Dubai runner-up Elena Rybakina.
Second seed Karolina Pliskova, who reached the 2015 final, could face Azarenka or Kerber in the quarter-finals, third seed Aryna Sabalenka will play one of two former finalists, Alize Cornet or Daria Kasatkina, in the second round, and fifth seed Kiki Bertens has the sensational teenager Coco Gauff, 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova and Rybakina as well as Kvitova in her section of the draw.
And much local interest will deservedly centre around Ons Jabeur, who has demonstrated that she can challenge the very best as she continues to be a trail blazer for Arab women. She also is in the section of the draw that includes Kvitova, Bertens, Rybakina Vondrousova and Gauff, and starts against Katerina Siniakova.
“We are happy to award wild cards this week to Coco Gauff, Timea Babos and Anastasia Potapova,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Still only 16, Coco Gauff has made a huge impact on the sport, not only winning her first career title last in Linz where she earned her first win over a top 10 opponent but reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier. She was also a semi-finalist in Adelaide last month.
“Timea Babos is not only a fine singles player with three singles titles and a further five finals to her name, but an outstanding doubles player four Grand Slam crowns. Anastasia Potapova is a rising star who won the 2016 Junior Wimbledon title and was ranked as the junior world number one, and last year she reached three quarter-finals on the WTA Tour.”
Following the WTA1000 event will be the equally exciting ATP contest for the title, headed by reigning US Open champion and world number four Dominic Thiem, who will be in competition for the title against five-time 2020 title-winner and world number eight Andrey Rublev, 2021 ATP Cup finalist Matteo Berrettini, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, 2020 Dubai semi-finalist Gael Monfils, 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut, 2021 Montpellier winner David Goffin and 2020 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highenss Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.