2022 Dubai tennis
FLASHBACK TO 2022: Latvia’s Jeļena Ostapenko (right) with the trophy after winning the finals against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 19, 2022. The 23rd edition begins on Sunday, February 19, 2023. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Six Grand Slam winners with 10 majors between them are among 17 of the top 20 ranked women players in Dubai. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which starts on Sunday, never had it so good. It’s the strongest field in 23 years, which is a testament to the tournament’s growth as a top drawcard among the tennis elite.

French and US Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland is the top seed in the 64-player fray, followed by Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenko of Belarus. The top eight seeds have received first-round byes.

Leylah Fernandez, the new crowd favourite

Swiatek, who has had a good run in the Qatar Open, faces major challenges along the way. France’s Caroline Garcia (seeded 4), American Coco Gauff (5), Greece’s Maria Sakkari (6), Kazakhstan’s reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina (9), Russians Veronika Kudermetova (10) and Liudmila Samsonova (14), and Belarus’ two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka (15) feature in Swiatek’s half of the draw.

World No.39 Leylah Fernandez, a potential Dubai crowd favourite, will play a qualifier in the first round before a possible showdown with World No.1 Swiatek in the second round.

Dubai tennis draw
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director, tennis stars Paula Badosa and Sania Mirza, and other officials at the Draw Presentation of the 23rd women’s competition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Tournament on Saturday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Sabalenka’s side of the draw includes the American Jessica Pegula (3), 2018 Dubai finalist Daria Kasatkina (7); Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (8), Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia (11); two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (12) of the Czech Republic, defending champion and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko (13) of Latvia; and Ekaterina Alexandrova (16).

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“This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the WTA tournament, and it is remarkable how the tournament has grown alongside the men’s ATP event, which marks its 31st anniversary next week,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Over the years, the WTA tournament has grown significantly and continues to attract a stellar line-up as evidenced by the field and today’s draw. This year is no exception.”

Tournament Director Salah Tahlak said: Six players have received wildcards to enter the main draw, including Turkey’s Ipek Oz.