Dubai: World number one Serena Williams is the latest star to join the line-up that will contest the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week after being granted a wild card.
The American has claimed an incredible 17 Grand Slam singles titles including five titles each at Wimbledon and the Australian and US Opens, and two at Roland Garros, and she is also an Olympic gold medal winner after her triumph at London 2012.
She will now join sister Venus, who was granted a wild card earlier in the week, in a star-studded line up in Dubai, which includes four former world number ones and seven of the world’s top ten players.
Williams last year pulled out of the event ahead of her second-round match against France’s Marion Bartoli, citing a back injury. She gave an on-court television interview to explain her withdrawal.
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman of tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free, said: “There is no greater player in the world today than Serena Williams, and although she has now reached an age when many players would be thinking of retiring, her career is still going from strength to strength.
“Last year, she won an astonishing 34 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak of her career, and the second longest of any player this century.”
The 32-year old won a remarkable 11 events in 2013, beginning in the first week of the year in Brisbane and continuing through Miami, Madrid, Rome, the French Open, the US Open, Beijing and the final event of the year, the WTA Championships in Istanbul. She suffered just four defeats in the entire season — at the Australian Open, Doha, Wimbledon and Cincinnati.
A year ago Serena became the oldest world number one, and she set another record with her massive $12 million (Dh44.06 million) prize money haul for a single season. The year also marked the first time she had won 11 titles in a season, and her 78 match victories easily eclipsed her previous record of 58 wins in a year.
Now with 58 career singles titles, Williams has remarkably still to add the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to her portfolio, and this will be her fourth attempt to lift the trophy.
She first played in Dubai in 2005 and was forced to retire in the semi-finals against Jelena Jankovic due to injury. Her next appearance was in 2009 when she again reached the semi-finals, before losing a nail-biting battle with her sister Venus, losing the match after a third-set tiebreak. Serena returned again last year, but injury forced her to withdraw before she could take to the court.
Her quest to add the Dubai title to her ever-growing list of accomplishments comes after she began the 2014 season by beating world number four Maria Sharapova and number two Victoria Azarenka to retain her Brisbane title, but she will face a formidable field that includes no less than six other members of the world’s Top 10.
“Serena will join a tournament that is one of the strongest outside of the Grand Slams,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “It includes no less than four players who have won the title, including her two-time champion sister Venus. She will also be up against defending champion Petra Kvitova, 2012 winner Agnieszka Radwanska and 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki.”
Other players who will provide the strongest possible opposition include WTA Most Improved Player of the Year Simona Halep, recent Paris Indoor champion and 2013 Dubai runner-up Sara Errani, Ana Ivanovic — who last month won in Auckland and then upset Serena at the Australian Open, 2014 Sydney finalist Angelique Kerber, and Brisbane semi-finalist and former world number one Jelena Jankovic.
Play in the WTA event begins on February 17 and continues until February 22.
This will be followed by the ATP tournament, which takes place from February 24 to March 1 and features defending champion Novak Djokovic, five-time champion Roger Federer, Australian Open semi-finalist Tomas Berdych and world number four Juan Martin del Potro.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 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 Dh75 for opening rounds to Dh500 for the finals, with season tickets also available.
For more information about tickets, prices and the tournament, visit http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com or phone the call centre on +971 4 4172415.