Dubai: Sunday will be a historic day for tennis when for the first time, the Australian Open qualifying will be contested on foreign soil, simultaneously in Dubai and Doha.
As the tennis world continues to adapt to life in these COVID-19 times, the men will play at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha, while the women will be in action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Al Garhoud.
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Both qualifying tournaments are being staged simultaneously from January 10 to 13, with the 16 successful qualifiers from each event along with players eligible for a ‘Lucky Losers’ spot securing their seat on a special charter flight to Melbourne immediately after to serve out the mandatory 14-day quarantine period stipulated by the Victoria State Government.
The season’s first Grand Slam will be held at Melbourne Park from February 8 to 21.
Organised and managed by UAE-based Brandplus, the 128-strong women’s field in Dubai has attracted a few top stars including Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, American Catherine McNally and fast-upcoming Egyptian youngster Mayar Sherif.
Slovenia’s 20-year-old Kaja Juvan is the top seed, while second seed Oceane Dodin of France will be among those in action against Bulgarian Isabella Shinikova on Court 3 in their opening round, on Sunday.
Belgium’s Greet Minnen is the third seed, while 26-year-old German Anna-Lena Friedsam will also be up on Court 3 on Sunday against Croatia’s Ana Konjuh.
Bouchard, one of the former stars seeking a comeback after slipping down the rankings, will be up against Australia’s Abbie Myers on Monday, while Pironkova will take on Japan’s Kyoka Okamura on Sunday.
The 12th-seeded McNally will open against Daria Snigur, while the Arab world’s fast-rising player Sherif will be up against Akiko Omae of Japan with both matches scheduled for Monday.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium will witness a total of 32 matches on seven of its courts on Sunday and Monday.