Daria Snigur 1-1669313391618
Defending champion Daria Snigur returns to defend her crown in the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, to be held from December 5-11. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Hungary’s former ITF Junior World Champion Dalma Galfi will be among the main challengers to face the defending champion Daria Snigur in the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, to be held from December 5-11.

Galfi, the winner of nine singles and ten doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit, reached her best singles ranking of No 81 in the second half of June 2022.

In December 2015, the 24-year-old Hungarian was pronounced ITF Junior World Champion following her successful run that included winning the girls’ singles title at the US Open along with the girls’ doubles crown (with Fanny Stollar) at the Wimbledon Championships.

Defending champion Snigur will be eyeing a rare back-to-back success in this $100,000 competition following her easy 6-3, 6-0 run for the title against Kristina Kucova last year.

Successful season

2022 has been a successful season for the 20-year-old Ukrainian wherein she made her Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at the 2022 US Open. She made her maiden appearance count with an upset win against former world No 1 Simona Halep before losing in straight sets to Rebecca Marino in the second round.

However, these performances gave Snigur a WTA rankings of world No 124 in the singles by August 2022, and further successes have seen the youngster climb to a career-high No 105.

The tournament has also drawn former Grand Slam champion and Dubai regular, Kristina Mladenovic along with the fast-improving duo of Magdalena Frech from Poland and Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands to complete the top-5 players of the main draw.

Notable names

Other notable names in the draw are Viktoria Kuzmova (144), Diana Shnaider (161), Jaimee Fourlis (164), Anastasia Zakharova (167) and Barbara Haas (173).

First held in 1998, and played at the Habtoor Grand Resort Autograph Collection, this tournament is classified as an ITF Women’s Circuit competition. The competition started off as an $25,000 ITF event, before being raised to a $75,000 tournament between 1999 to 2015.

Since 2016, the annual fixture has been upgraded to a $100,000 plus hospitality event on the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour while attracting some of the top champions alongside a fast-improving breed of promising young stars.

Created by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, the annual tournament has managed to live up to its reputation of encouraging the development of women’s tennis in the UAE and the region, while raising the profile of the sport across the Arab world.

Included in the long list of past champions are former Grand Slam winners and top-class players such as Sorana Cirstea (2020), Ana Bogdan (2019), Peng Shuai (2018), Belinda Bencic (2017), Kimiko Date-Krumm (2012), Sania Mirza (2010), Maria Kirilenko (2007), Kateryna Bondarenko (2006), Marion Bartoli (2005), Jelena Jankovic (2003) and inaugural winner Kyra Nagy (1998).

The competition will get under way on December 4 with the qualifying matches, followed by the main draw matchups from December 5 with the finale being slotted for December 11.