Martina Hingis, a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame, emerged as the first-ever champion of women's event in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: When the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships opened its door to the WTA Tour in 2001, it was a distant dream that over the next 20 years almost every top player in the world would enter to perform on one of the most magnificent Centre Courts in the world.

The tournament has always attracted the very best and it was fitting that the first champion would be the world number one, Martina Hingis. The inaugural event was named as the Best Tournament of the Year by the WTA, and it later went on to win the Best Premier 5 Event in 2015, an honour that was repeated in 2019.

Of the 13 winners in the 19 years up to now, an incredible eight have been Grand Slam singles champions too and four winners, Justine Henin, Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva and Venus Williams, honoured their country as Olympic singles gold medal winners. Agnieszka Radwanska contested the Wimbledon final, Dementieva reached the final of both the French and US Opens, and Sara Errani achieved world number five and not only reached the final at Roland Garros but won all four Grand Slam titles in doubles.

The championship also made history and became a trailblazer for women’s tennis when in 2005 it made the decision to offer equal prize money to both women and men, becoming only the third professional tennis event after the US Open and Australian Opens and the first outside of the Grand Slams to do so.

“We were one of the first tournaments to introduce equal prize money for the WTA players back in 2005 and we have remained committed to such equality,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Dubai Duty Free. “We have been delighted to do so, not only because we believe it is the right thing to do but it is in recognition of the growth and popularity of women’s tennis around the world. We eagerly look forward to seeing what the future years have in store.”

“Throughout every year of the past two decades, we have been entertained by so many legends of the game and witnessed not only their victories but also so many upsets along the way,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “In such a competitive field no player has been able to take success for granted, and that has made each and every day a thrilling experience. We can look forward to many more.”

The Championships begins with the WTA event which runs from February 17-22 and features reigning Grand Slam champions Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu, and then continues from February 24-29 with the ATP tournament which stars reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, eight-time Dubai champion Roger Federer, 2019 ATP Finals winner Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut.