Magdalena Frech
Last year's runner-up Magdalena Frech will start as the top seed in the Al Habtoor Challenge Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The reigning champion Elsa Jacquemot and runner-up Magdalena Frech will square up for an engrossing week of tennis as Dubai plays host to the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge next month.

Frenchwoman Jacquemot will be wary of top-ranked Frech, who lost in the final last edition, in the Gulf region’s oldest women’s professional tennis event, which opens on December 3 with the qualifying rounds and the draw for the singles main round will be conducted the following day at the Habtoor Grand Resort.

Jacquemot stunned the more experienced Pole 7-5, 6-2 in last year’s final to win a first professional career title in the popular W100+H event on the ITF World Tennis Tour.

Near-perfect preparation

Meanwhile, Frech, who is top-ranked at No 63, will come to Dubai after enjoying a near-perfect preparation for this event by claiming her first title in over two years on the ITF World Tennis Tour at the end of October.

Frech defeated former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 at W100 Les Franqueses del Valles in Spain to claim her seventh professional singles crown — the second biggest of her career after her triumph at the WTA 125 event in Concord in August 2021.

Elsa Jacquemot
The reigning champion Elsa Jacquemot will start as one of the favourites in Al Habtoor Challenge. Image Credit: Supplied

Slovakia’s Viktoria Hruncakova, who lost to Frech in the semi-final in Dubai last year, is the second-best player in the cast with a WTA Ranking of No 116, while 2021 champion Daria Snigur, who crashed out to Rebecca Sramkova in the first round last year, is ranked third at 124.

Former champions

Mai Hontama of Japan and Maria Timofeeva, who came through the qualifying rounds in 2022 before going down to eventual champion Jacquemot in the second round, will complete the top-5 players in this year’s competition.

First held in 1998, 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.

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).