Colm McLoughlin and Salah Tahlak were present at the WTA DDFTC draw alongside Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina
Colm McLoughlin and Salah Tahlak were present at the WTA DDFTC draw alongside Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza was given a stiff first-round task as the WTA draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships took place on Saturday.

The world No. 6 and fourth seed in Dubai will face recent Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins for the tournament, which began with qualifiers on Saturday.

Although now ranked 11 in the world, Collins was facing the prospect of the qualifying rounds in Dubai herself as she was just outside the top 30 when the DDFTC entries were finalised. But thankfully for her, withdrawals allowed her to take her place in the first round proper — and now she is in the marquee clash on Monday.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Danielle Collins to Dubai for the first time, after she thrilled us all with her magnificent run to the Australian Open final last month,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We could not have wished for a more exciting first round to enjoy, and it will be fascinating to see which player will advance to the next round.

“We welcome too so many of the world’s top 20 players, a number of whom are familiar faces who have already enjoyed great success in Dubai in previous seasons. We wish everyone well and look forward to the wonderful entertainment and drama that they are certain to provide.”

Garbine Muguruza stormed to the Dubai title
Garbine Muguruza stormed to the Dubai title Image Credit: WTA Twitter

Top seed and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka could then face two-time Grand Slam winner Petra Kvitova, if the Belarusian defeats a qualifier in the opening round. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, must first get past the dangerous Camila Giorgi. Former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek are also in her quarter of the draw.

Second seed and 2021 Dubai finalist Barbora Krejcikova will have her work cut out, with both two-time Dubai winner Elina Svitolina and 2021 French and US Open semi-finalist Maria Sakkari in her quarter of the draw.

Third seed Paula Badosa side of the draw includes two-time Dubai champion Simona Halep, crowd favourite Ons Jabeur and the highly promising Coco Gauff.

The WTA Dubai Duty Free Championships draw
The WTA Dubai Duty Free Championships draw Image Credit: Matthew Smith/Gulf News

“There are so many outstanding matches to look forward to over the coming week, not only in the later rounds but from the very first day,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “There is no doubt that we will see a number of upsets as the week progresses, and it is with great anticipation that we wait to see who will be our champion this year.”

The WTA event takes place between February 14 and 19, with play beginning at 12.30pm on Monday and Tuesday and then from 2pm on Wednesday to Friday. Evening sessions throughout the week begin at 7pm. The tournament then continues next week with the 30th anniversary of the ATP Tour 500 tournament when world NO. 1 Novak Djokovic will be bidding for his sixth Dubai title.