Dubai: Former Dubai Open champion Sara Errani is among the stars who have confirmed their entry at the 20th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) that gets under way at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa tennis courts next week.
Errani, who defeated Elina Svitolina en route to the final, got the better of Barbora Strycova in straight sets to earn the biggest singles title of her career by winning in Dubai in February last year. The 30-year-old Italian has so far won nine career singles titles and 26 doubles crowns, including five Grand Slam doubles.
“To have a player of this stature for our 20th anniversary is something we’ve been looking forward to. We are excited to have her along with an array of other top players who will make this edition truly memorable for women’s tennis in the region,” Hani Al Khafief, Tournament Adviser and Director of Habtoor Tennis Academy, told Gulf News.
“We wanted to make this edition a truly special one, and with this in mind, we have decided to organise a domestic tennis tournament for locally-based players running alongside the main event. Starting from the under-12 boys, we have another four junior categories and a men’s and women’s singles. But the highlight will be the men’s super singles with a total prize fund of Dh16,000,” he added.
Errani won three titles on clay going into the 2012 French Open, where she reached the finals in both the singles and doubles, while winning the doubles with her partner Roberta Vinci. The duo also won the doubles titles at the 2012 US Open and the 2013 and 2014 Australian Open. By winning the 2014 Wimbledon women’s doubles together, the Italians became only the fifth pair in tennis history to complete a Career Grand Slam.
Lining alongside Errani will be former world number seven Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 24-year-old from Hungary Timea Babos, former Australian Open semi-finalist Patty Schnyder and Japan’s highest ranked player Ayumi Morita, among others.
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei, who had defeated 19-year-old Natalia Vikhlyantseva in straight sets for the crown last year, will also be returning to defend her title, alongside another former champion Cayla Buyukakcay who had won both the singles and doubles titles in 2015. “Lining up a field like this one can be a tough ask especially as we are in the tennis off-season. But some of the top women like to come to Dubai and make use of the good weather here and get their pre-season preparations under way well in advance,” Al Khafief said.
“Most of our top players are expected to land in Dubai by Friday, and considering that this is an anniversary year, we are expecting a much bigger attendance from spectators and fans,” he added.
Entrance to the tournament is free and fans have been encouraged to attend and get to meet their favourite stars. The qualifying rounds will be held on Friday and Saturday followed by the main draw being held on Sunday morning.