Venus Williams made history at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year when she became the first wild card and first unseeded player to win the women’s title. Of course, she was no ordinary wild card, and her low ranking was entirely due to her lack of matches as a result of injury and illness.
But given that she has just defeated world number six Agnieszka Radwanska to progress to the quarter finals of the Australian Open, Venus will arrive in Dubai in just a few weeks as a real contender to make write her name in the record books again by being just the second woman (along with Justine Henin) to win the Dubai title four times.
Having already demonstrated that she was in fine form by reaching the Auckland final in 2014 before losing to Ana Ivanovic, and holding a match point against sixth-ranked and then-Dubai champion Petra Kvitova in Doha, she swept to her third Dubai and 45th career title in straight sets, giving up just three games to Alize Cornet in the final. Among the players she beat on her way to the final were Ivanovic, as well as former Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki.
That victory added to the titles she had won in 2009 and 2010, and means that she has an unbeaten streak of 15 matches as she prepares to defend her title next month against eight of the world’s top 10. In her three most recent visits she has dropped just one set, to sister Serena, in a dramatic 2009 semi-final.
“Just to be able to be here and compete was the first thing that made me so happy, and then obviously to play well, win the title and have this wonderful streak here is definitely an accomplishment,” said Venus after collecting her trophy.
She continued on her winning ways after leaving Dubai last year, reaching two more finals and working her way back into the top 20 after beginning the season ranked 49. Her best week came in Montreal, where she beat world number seven Angelique Kerber and then sister Serena in three sets before losing to former Dubai winner Agnieszka Radwanska. She also reached the final in Quebec City where she fell to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
“It was wonderful to see Venus Williams win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for a third time and in such style,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “She first came to Dubai in 2002 and is playing better here now than she has ever done. It will be very interesting to see if this year she can maintain her remarkable unbeaten run and equal the record four titles held by Justine Henin.”
Although she faces a field equally as challenging as the one at the Australian Open, Venus will go into the defence of her Dubai title with enormous confidence after already adding to her career titles with victory over Wozniacki in the Auckland final. That triumph established her as the fourth oldest winner on the WTA Tour, behind Billie Jean King, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Martina Navratilova.
“By the time you’re 34 you have a lot of experience and if you can stay in shape, stay fit, can move and hit the ball and don’t have five kids at home then why not?” she said after the match. “There’s nothing holding me back from being here and doing well. Of course I can’t play forever. Someone else has to take the torch at some point. While I’m here I’m enjoying it.”
“Venus Williams is an icon and one of the most successful players of this century, and everyone was thrilled with her outstanding performances last year as she swept all before her to claim her third Dubai title,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “That was a great accomplishment, but now she faces an enormous challenge once again, with nearly every top player in the world equally determined to claim one of the most prestigious titles in tennis.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features eight of the world’s top 10, including world number one Serena Williams, defending champion Venus Williams, former winners Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, and French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament featuring Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are on sale at the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which is open from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.