Dubai: Current World Number One Ashleigh Barty will be joined by two-time reigning champion Simona Halep at next month’s 2021 Dubai Tennis Championships at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
Dubai Duty Free, tournament owners and organisers, on Thursday confirmed an amazing line-up for the two-week tennis extravaganza that will get under way with the Women’s Open featuring nine of the world’s top-10 and 17 of the top-20 players.
Now classified as a 1,000 event on the annual WTA Tour calendar, the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open will get under way on May 7 with the final scheduled for March 13. The following week will see some of the top men competing for the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open from March 14-20.
The women players who have confirmed for the tournament have a grand total of 18 Grand Slam titles between them, with as many as six of these players holding the world number one ranking at some point during their career.
Australia’s Barty, who is tipped to be among the pre-tournament favourites at next week’s season-opening Australian Open, will be making her Dubai debut. Barty, who had also been a professional cricketer, is only the second Australian WTA singles No. 1 after fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
Her foremost challenger will be world number two and reigning Dubai champion Halep, who will be attempting to become just the third player in the 21-year history of the WTA event to win a third title. Former world number ones Justine Henin (four titles) and Venus Williams (three titles) have managed the feat before.
“We are delighted to welcome back to Dubai so many of the very best players in the world,” Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, noted.
“All of them have given us many moments to remember, and we are thrilled as well to welcome new faces to Dubai and look forward to seeing them demonstrate the skills that have taken them to Grand Slam success and to the top of the rankings,” he added.
Other stars who are confirmed to play in Dubai include Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka, Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens.
Last year, Kenin thrilled the tennis world after she came from nowhere to claim the Australian Open crown, defeating world number one Barty in the semi-final and then Garbine Muguruza in three thrilling sets in the final. Svitolina is a two-time Dubai champion having won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.
Pliskova has not only enjoyed success in Dubai while contesting in the 2015 final, but the lanky Czech has been runner-up at the US Open and has been a semi-finalist at both the Australian and French Opens.
Another strong title contender will be Swiss girl Belinda Bencic following her title run here in 2019. The same year, she reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open and was named as the WTA Comeback Player of the Year. Also showing a lot of confidence on the quick Dubai courts will be Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the highest ranked Arab player in WTA history so far.
Iga Swiatek expected
Among other stars who are expected to light up tennis in Dubai that week will be 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, former world number one, two-time Grand Slam champion and 2010 Dubai finalist Victoria Azarenka, former French Open and Wimbledon champion Muguruza, triple Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, Grand Slam finalist Madison Keys and 2020 Dubai finalist Rybakina.
“We are privileged once again to have the opportunity to see so many of the world’s top women players fighting for the coveted title,” Tournament Director Salah Tahlak, said.
“As always, competition will be fierce and although many of those who have enjoyed outstanding success both in Dubai and elsewhere will be among the favourites to lift the trophy, previous years have produced many surprises and upsets and success is never guaranteed. The only certainty is that we will enjoy a terrific spectacle of top-class tennis throughout the tournament,” he added.