Tennis - Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka, who has played some of her best tennis in the region in recent years, wants to go all the way in Dubai this time. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Aryna Sabalenka, top seed and the current world No.2, is hoping to claim a unique Middle East treble when she bids for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title next week.

Two of her 10 WTA singles titles have come in the region, as she won Doha in 2020 and last year added Abu Dhabi to her growing list of tournament triumphs.

The tournament begins with the WTA event which takes place from February 14-19 and features eight of the world’s top 10 players. The ATP week will follow thereafter from February 21-16 with the 30th anniversary of the ATP Tour 500 tournament when world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be bidding for his sixth Dubai title. Andy Murray, a former world No.1 and a three-time Major winner, has been handed a wild card for the event.


“Aryna Sabalenka clearly loves playing in the Middle East and we look forward to seeing if she can be as successful in Dubai as she has been elsewhere,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

After failing to overcome Garbine Muguruza in the Dubai quarter finals last year, she advanced to a further quarter final in Miami where she stretched world number one Ashleigh Barty to three sets. She then moved onto the claycourts in Stuttgart where she defeated two-time Dubai winner Simona Halep to reach the final, only to fall again to Barty in three sets. The pair then met yet again, for the third time in three tournaments, and this time in the Madrid final Sabalenka emerged as the winner.

A switch to grass brought more success as Sabalenka reached the semi-finals of a grand slam for the first time at Wimbledon, where Karolina Pliskova eventually ended her run in a thrilling three-setter. Then, during the North America hard court season, she reached the semi-finals in Montreal and then in New York her second successive Grand Slam semi-final, where teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez edged through.

She was then unable to play at Indian Wells due to testing positive for Covid-19, failed to enjoy similar success during the remainder of her season, and has struggled to regain her momentum so far in 2022.

“It is a great pleasure to welcome Aryna Sabalenka back to Dubai as our number one seed,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “She has proved that she can overcome the very best on so many occasions, and we very much look forward to seeing how she competes here once again against such a strong field.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.