Dubai: Egypt’s Sandra Samir is hoping for a winning main draw debut after being handed a wild card entry at this week’s 24th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.
The 24-year-old – one of four wild cards here this week – was drawn to play eighth seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia in their opening round match.
Attending the draw was Khalaf Al Habtoor, Chairman of Habtoor Group along with Nasser Al Marzouki, Vice President of UAE Tennis Association (UAE TA), Sheetal Iyer, ITF Supervisor and Tournament Director, Noura Badawi.
“Our ambitions for this tournament are big. We are in the process of a big announcement that will see us co-operating with a Government department and this will really raise the profile of our tournament,” Al Habtoor said at the draw ceremony that was held in the presence of top players including India’s Ankita Raina, Egypt’s Sandra Samir and Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia.
Samir, who struggled with visa issues through a major part of the 2021 season, was pleased to be in Dubai for such a high-profile tournament.
“Definitely, my expectations are high here, and at the same time I am realistic as I play the eighth seed. Khalaf [Al Habtoor] has been kind enough to give me a wild card. He has watched me play before, and giving me a wild card just shows the belief of the organisers in my capability. But, there is no pressure on me, and I promise I will do my best to make myself proud and justify this wild card here,” Samir promised.
Currently ranked No. 356 on the WTA, the Egyptian who is coached by Karim Mahmoud, further said that she will use this competition to further boost her presence on the Tour.
“I am giving my best each time I am on the court and doing well here will definitely help me break into the top-200 by the end of the year,” she added. “This week is going to be crucial for me as I want to improve on my rankings. Polona is going to be tough, and the idea will be to take one match at a time,” Samir insisted.
Samir won the U-16 African Junior Tennis Championships in 2013, and since then she has gone on to claim 12 singles and eight doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit. At the end of October 2020, Samir reached her best singles rankings of world No. 342.