Dubai: The women’s draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships now boasts an amazing 17 out of the top 20 players with the inclusion of the French No 1 Marion Bartoli after organisers offered her a wildcard.
The Frenchwoman is currently ranked 11th in the world after reaching a career high of No 7 during 2012.
A consistent performer, having been on the circuit since 2000 and having been ranked inside the top 20 every week since June 2007, Bartoli has seven career singles titles and three doubles titles and although she didn’t add to that tally last year, she did reach two finals and was a regular sight in the quarter-finals reaching five, including at the US Open, and in the semis, reaching four.
Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free, welcomed Bartoli’s inclusion in the main draw.
“Marion Bartoli has missed only one year of our tournament since she successfully came through the qualifying rounds in 2005,” he said. “In that first year she also played an ITF event in Dubai and emerged from that as the champion. Since those early days she has continued to perform well on the tour and it is with great pleasure that we welcome back the French No 1.”
However, Bartoli has found it difficult to repeat the success she has enjoyed in so many other places in Dubai having never progressed beyond the third round, something she has achieved on three occasions. She has had a number of difficult draws and met some of the highest seeds at an early stage, but it is clear from her record that she has the ability to match it with the best.
She can be a giant-killer, having taken care of world No 1 Victoria Azarenka in Miami last year, ending the Belarusian’s 26-match winning streak.
She is known for her unorthodox and intense style of play, and is an aggressive and hard-hitting player, with an unusual serve which she developed to compensate for her relatively small stature,
“It works extremely well for me I think, the take-back is a bit different but when the toss is up it’s the same as everyone,” she said. “I have been working extremely hard on my serve because I am not very tall and that was always my weaker shot. Now it is my weapon.”
Bartoli is also known for her remarkable intelligence, having recorded a genius level scored on an IQ test as a child. She prefers to play that down but does admit that being smart is definitely an asset on court.
“Sometimes it helps to be smart on the court, but being a tennis player takes a lot of physical effort, too,” she said. “There is a combination of both. What helps me is the way I’m thinking on the court, trying always to figure out a solution. It helps me. Sometimes players come up with Plan A and never get a Plan B. I’m always working to figure out a way to find a solution to win.”
Bartoli will need to harness that intelligence as she joins a stellar list of world class players when play gets underway on February 18.
Among her opponents Azarenka, 2012 Wimbledon, Olympic and US Open champion Serena Williams, defending Dubai champion Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011 Dubai sensation Caroline Wozniacki, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur.
The WTA event will be followed by the ATP World Tour event commencing on February 25, which will feature world No 1 Novak Djokovic, defending champion Roger Federer, as well as top-10 rivals Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which takes place from February 18 to March 2, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are on sale from the box office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, which is open from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand ticket prices range from Dh50 for opening rounds to Dh450 for finals, with season tickets also available.