Dubai: Six of the top-100 women’s players are among those already confirmed to play in the 15th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge that gets underway at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa later this month.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) says Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, who is ranked No 52, heads the list for the Dubai tournament. Also set to play are world No 56 Bojana Jovanovski from Serbia, Hungary’s Timea Babos (64), Russia’s Nina Bratchikova (85), Casey Dellacqua (88) from Australia and Japan’s Misaki Doi (97).
Other familiar faces who figure in the acceptance list are Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland (113), Russian Vera Dushevina (141), Andrea Petkovic of Germany (143) and veteran Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm (146).
The Al Habtoor event, which was first held in 1999, is classified as a $75,000 (Dh275,250) ITF Women’s Circuit Tournament.
The qualifying competition will be held on November 24 and 25, followed by the main draw from November 26 to December 1.
“We are so excited about the tournament this time because this is the 15th edition. The main aim this year will be to get the community engaged in a much bigger way,” said ITF Supervisor Hani Al Khafief.
“This tournament has always been a family-oriented event and we want to maintain this social aspect.
“As usual we have some of the top-100 players coming along, with several popular faces who have been at the top of women’s tennis. These players are always looking at earning some valuable points at the end of the year so that they stand a better chance at making it to the Australian Open.”
Among the two major changes in the competition will be the appointment of Ivica Ancic, brother of former top-10 player Mario, as the new tournament director, while Abdul Salam Al Marzouqi will be in charge of getting the community involved.
The founder of the tournament, Khalaf Al Habtoor, has lauded the role it has played in raising the sport’s profile, not to mention the players involved, over its 15 years so far.
“Fifteen years is a long time for an event of this nature to run. During this time we have improved in the manner we organise this tournament and the game of tennis too has shown marked improvement,” he said.
“Not only do we host tennis players during the one week of competition, we also get other top players who come and stay with us and use our facilities so that they can prepare for the season ahead.
“Last year we had Mario Ancic staying with us. And I believe Novak Djokovic got the right sort of momentum going into the 2012 season after practising with us for two weeks at the end of last year.
“The tennis has improved and the players have loved coming and being with us. What more can we ask for?”