Dubai: Dubai resident Kristina ‘Kiki’ Mladenovic plans to give it her best shot at winning the title this weekend when the main draw of the 22nd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge gets under way at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa from Monday.
The final of the 22nd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge will be held on December 14 and Mladenovic — who lives within walking distance of the venue — is looking at this week’s $100,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event as the right preparation for the season ahead.
The 26-year-old Frenchwoman, who is currently world No. 1 in doubles, marked a successful 2019 while successfully defending her season-ending WTA World Tour Finals last month.
She made heads turn following her stunning win against the US Open and Australian Open champion and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka in their second round meeting at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last February.
Later in the season, Mladenovic went on to win the French Open [with Timea Babos] before capping it with a successful run for the Fed Cup crown with a 3-2 win against Australia in Perth on November 9-10.
Some of the best women’s players have turned up for this tournament with the top eight seeds all featuring in the top-100 of the WTA Rankings. In addition, former world No. 29 Urszula Radwanska — younger sister of former world No. 2 Agnieska — has been given one of the four wild cards.
“I think it’s all about keeping the momentum going. Honestly, I am surprised with the quality of the field. But this works well for me as I want to go into the new season with a few strong matches. I am using this competition as the perfect build-up for the upcoming season,” Mladenovic told Gulf News.
“The idea and focus here is to give it my best shot and the results will follow,” she added after being drawn to face 23-year-old African champion Mayar Sherif Ahmad Abdul Aziz, a wild card here.
“It’s never easy to play an unknown player. Women’s tennis has shown a lot of depth and I think rankings is just a number on paper. So we can expect a lot of upsets along the way. I only hope I can hang in there and see how things go heading towards Saturday,” Mladenovic related.
Radwanska — who has already cemented her spot for the qualifying rounds at the 2020 Australian Open — didn’t want to put too much pressure on herself. “I want to enjoy my tennis and see how far I can go with the results. I am ready to put in every effort to ensure I have the best pre-season as I want to make a comeback on the tour,” Radwanska said.
The main draw gets under way from 10am alongside the final round of the qualifiers on Monday. The draw for the competition was conducted by Tournament Director Noura Badawi in the presence of Mohammad Al Mazrooei, Executive Director, Al Habtoor Group; Nasser Al Marzooqi, General Secretary, Tennis Emirates and ITF Supervisor Hani Al Khafief.
(Day One of the qualifying rounds) Isabella Shinikova bt Cornelia Lister 6-2, 6-1; Georgina Garcia-Perez bt Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-3; Chloe Paquet bt Miriam Bianca Bulgaru 6-3, 6-4; Magdalena Frech bt Elizabeth Halbauer 6-1, 5-7, 14-12; Estelle Cascino bt Lara Salden 6-4, 2-6. 10-8; Eleonora Molinaro bt Shatoo Mohammad 7-5, 6-3; Kateryna Bondarenko bt Julia Grabher 6-3, 7-6 (5); Daria Snigur bt Maryna Zanevska 6-2, 6-3; Anastasia Gasanova bt Emily Webley-Smith 6-2, 6-3; Aleksandra Krunic x Rutuja Bhosale 3-6, 6-0, 10-3.