Eugenie Bouchard Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Australian Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard and French Open and Australian Open doubles champion Timea Babos will be joined by experienced Swiss player and Dubai regular Stefanie Vogele as a competitive field prepares to land in Dubai for the qualifying rounds of the 2021 Australian Open, from January 10-13.

Scheduled to held at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Al Garhoud, the women’s draw for the qualifying rounds has attracted a full field of 128 players who will be competing for the 16 spots in the main draw of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park, from February 8-21.

Organisers of the season-opening Grand Slam decided to host the qualifying event offshore for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The men’s qualifying rounds will be held simultaneously at the Khalifa Tennis Centre in Doha, Qatar.

Babos, who is a former two-time Australian Open (2018 and 2020) and Roland Garros doubles champion (2019 and 2020), is among the entrants in the singles qualifying field. She will be joined by another champion when former WTA World No. 5 and 2014 Australian Open semi-finalist Bouchard joins her in Dubai, while the experienced Swiss girl Vogele will be vying to make her eighth Australian Open main draw appearance.

Other notable contenders at the qualifiers in Dubai include Australian Open 2012 quarter-finalist Sara Errani, former WTA World No. 20 Mihaela Buzarnescu, 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova and former WTA World No. 35 CiCi Bellis.

“From the beginning of all our planning for the Australian Open, our objective has been to provide the players with as many competition opportunities, and the ability to earn prize money, as we possibly could,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley told the official WTA website, on Tuesday.

A total of 104 players receive direct entry into the women’s singles main draw and a further eight will be awarded wild cards, while 16 places will be determined at the qualifying rounds in Dubai.

Four other women join the main field on protected rankings with Yaroslava Shvedova, Vera Zvonareva, Katie Boulter and Mona Barthel all set to play in Melbourne.

The main draw of the 2021 Australian Open is headed by WTA World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty along with strong contenders including World No. 2 Simona Halep, 2020 US Open winner Naomi Osaka and defending champion Sofia Kenin alongside other top-10 players Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

Former multiple champion Serena Williams will be seeking a record-tying 24th Slam singles title by winning an eighth Australian Open crown. Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka is also scheduled to return, having missed the tournament in 2020, alongside Poland’s Iga Swiatek — the newest Grand Slam women’s champion who won Roland Garros in October.

No spectators will be allowed to attend the Australian Open qualifying rounds that are being organised by UAE-based, Brandplus International.