No less than four winners of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will be bidding to regain or retain their crown when play gets underway in the WTA Premier 5 event on 15th February.
One of the strongest fields ever assembled for the greatest tennis tournament in the Middle East is packed with players who are certainly no strangers to the winner’s rostrum, and that includes a fantastic foursome who have triumphed not only in Dubai but around the world.
Defending champion Venus Williams has lifted the trophy on no fewer than three occasions, first claiming the title in 2009 with a thrilling run that included victory over world number four Elena Dementieva and an incredible semi-final win over sister Serena in a third set tiebreak. She returned the next year and swept to the title without dropping a set, defeating Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Then last year she became the first wild card and first unseeded player in the history of the women’s event to win the title, overcoming former world number one Ana Ivanovic and 2011 Dubai winner Caroline Wozniacki along the way.
Wozniacki had won the title by not giving up a set all week as she climaxed her run with victory over former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. Since that triumph she has continued to excel at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, reaching the semi-finals three straight times and twice losing only to the eventual champion.
In 2012 the title went to Agnieszka Radwanska, taking full advantage of not having to face a top 10 opponent all week as she worked her way to a final showdown with 19th-ranked Julia Goerges. After reaching the quarter-finals the following year, falling to eventual champion Petra Kvitova, Radwanska will be hoping to make up for her disappointing performance last season, when she surrendered a 4-1 lead on her way to defeat against qualifier Flavia Pennetta.
Kvitova reversed her dismal Dubai record in spectacular fashion in 2013. Having lost to qualifiers ranked far below her the previous two years, she made it third time lucky as she dismissed former winners Wozniacki and Radwanska in straight sets before beating Sara Errani in a three-set final. Last year, though, Kvitova suffered another disappointing opening match exit at the hands of Carla Suarez Navarro.
Away from Dubai all four champions have performed with distinction in the past year. Having already reached the final in Auckland before arriving in Dubai, Venus went on to reach two further finals, in Montreal and Quebec City. And this season has been nothing short of fantastic for the 34-year old, who began 2015 by going one stage better in Auckland and defeating Wozniacki for the title, and then at the Australian Open she reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2010 with her three-set win over Radwanska.
Wozniacki’s last season highlight was advancing all the way to the final of the US Open, the first time she had reached the final of a Grand Slam since the US Open five years before. After reaching semi-finals in Dubai and Monterrey she enjoyed a magnificent second half of the year. As well as her US Open final appearance she earned her 22nd career title in Istanbul, reached the final in Tokyo and advanced to no fewer than four more semi-finals including the WTA Finals in Singapore. She began this year in fine form by reaching the final in Auckland before losing to Venus and then running into two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the Australian Open.
Radwanska too enjoyed a successful season, winning her 14th career title in Montreal and finishing as runner-up at Indian Wells. She reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time by upsetting defending champion Victoria Azarenka, and was a semi-finalist at four other tournaments including the WTA Finals where she beat Kvitova. This year, after adding the legendary Martina Navratilova to her coaching staff, she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing to Venus in three sets.
Kvitova’s year was highlighted by her second victory at the All England Club as she added a second Wimbledon trophy to the one she had secured in 2011. She also won titles in New Haven and Wuhan, and finished as runner-up in Beijing. This year she swiftly added a 15th title to her portfolio by winning in Sydney before being upset by Madison Keys in the third round of the Australian Open.
“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has consistently attracted the very best players in the world, and it takes an enormous effort to overcome such a talented field and win the title,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “Every one of our champions performing here again this year has proved beyond doubt that they can compete at the very highest level time and time again, and it will be very interesting indeed to see if one of them can once emerge as the winner.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “All four champions will without doubt be very strong contenders for the title once again, but they face some formidable opposition in world number one Serena Williams and French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep, as well as US and Australian Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova, recent Brisbane finalist Ana Ivanovic and 2015 Sydney semi-finalist Angelique Kerber. Competition will be very tough indeed.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament featuring Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, 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 available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens 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.