The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships start this weekend
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships start this weekend Image Credit: Courtesy DDFTC

Dubai: Tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free are all set to host the 20th edition of the annual Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open that gets under way with the qualifying rounds, from Saturday.

The 48-slot qualifying draw will start at 10.30am on Saturday with the six qualifiers being known only on Monday afternoon just before the commencement of the main draw from 2pm.

Qualifying round

The qualifying round draw of the Dubai Women’s Open was expanded from 32 to 48 by the WTA following the cancellation of the 2020 Hungarian Ladies Open.

Consequently, there will be six qualifiers instead of the normal four with the additional 16 spots being reserved for players who had been entered in Debrecen.

Further, as per the arrangement, two spots will be added to the main draw in lieu of byes for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds with the draw going up from 28 to 30 players with the addition of the two extra qualifiers.

Kim Clijsters practises in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Kim Clijsters practises in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

As usual, the Dubai Women’s Open has a full field led by Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters.

She is, in fact, making her Dubai debut while seeking a second comeback on the WTA — along with Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, runner-up Garbine Muguruza, 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, defending champion Belinda Bencic and another former world No. 1, Karolina Pliskova.

“Initially, we had confirmation from eight of the top ten players. But in an individual sport like tennis there are always going to be some injuries due to which we now have six of the top-10 and eight of the top-20 players in the women’s tournament,” Tournament Director Salah Tahlak told Gulf News.

“Whatever the field, everyone can expect some interesting match-ups given the fact that most of the women have similar levels. All of them are now at their physical peak and the competition is intense among them all,” he added.

Qiang Wang

Adding to the excitement in the opening week here will also be Qiang Wang, surprise winner over former world No 1 Serena Williams in their third round of the Australian Open, alongside Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.

“Perhaps one of the toughest things this year will be to predict which of these players will make it to the final next Saturday,” Tahlak related.

“But it is a really good problem to have as genuine fans and spectators will want to be here for an entire week of exciting women’s tennis. There are going to be loads of matches on Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to the cancellation of the Debrecen tournament. We will have some of the best players on court especially on these first few days. It’s going to be a fun week for all,” he added.

Owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, the two-week competition is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

It opens with the WTA Premier 5 women’s event followed by the ATP 500 men’s tournament that is in its 28th year.

Till date, the tournament has received a total of 35 ATP/ WTA awards since the inception of the men’s event in1993 and the women’s in 2001.

Did you know?

Mariam Bint Mohammad Saeed Hareb Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Food Security in the UAE, was a ball kid at the inaugural edition of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open.

Al Muhairi, who assumed office in October 2017, served as a ball kid at the inaugural edition of the men’s tournament in 1993.

Hailing from a sports-oriented family, Al Muhairi has also been a member of the board of the Emirates Equestrian Federation and head of showjumping and dressage since 2016.