Australian Open champion and world number one Serena Williams will be fully charged and ready for action when she makes her fourth bid to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships when play commences next week. She had to call for coffee to jump-start her season after she lost her opening five games of the year at the Hopman Cup earlier this month. But since then she has been unstoppable as she ended her Australian campaign by winning her 19th Grand Slam singles title, passing the record held by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and leaving her second in history only to Steffi Graf’s 22 crowns.
Her next challenge is to find a way to win one of the most sought-after titles on the WTA Tour. While she has fallen at the semi-final stage in each of her previous appearances at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, sister Venus has grabbed three crowns, with one victory coming after she had edged Serena in a third set tiebreak to reach the final. That dramatic result came in 2009 and is the closest that Serena has come in trying to end her Dubai title drought. She first played the event in 2005 and was forced to retire with an injury while battling Jelena Jankovic. Then after her loss to Venus she went all the way to the semi-finals again last year before Alize Cornet pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament by beating the shell-shocked American in straight sets.
“She played really well. You know, she played a solid match,” said Serena after her surprising defeat. “I just, you know, I didn’t play today. I tried, though. I just kept hitting errors. Today just wasn’t my day.”
Now she is ready to make amends, and comes back to Dubai after yet another outstanding and record-breaking season.
Despite Serena’s failure to join her sister on the exclusive list of distinguished Dubai champions, she claimed seven titles last year to bring her career total to 64, beginning in the opening week of the season in Brisbane and ending with victory at the WTA Finals in Singapore. After beating Victoria Azarenka she followed up by overcoming a succession of worthy opponents with wins over Li Na in Miami, Sara Errani in Rome, Angelique Kerber in Stanford, Ana Ivanovic in Cincinnati, Caroline Wozniacki at the US Open and Simona Halep in Singapore.
In winning the US Open she collected an eye-watering $4 million pay check, the highest payout in tennis history for a man or woman, with $3 million for winning the Open and a further $1 million bonus for winning the US Open Series, gaining the most points during the events leading up to the final Grand Slam of the year.
“Serena Williams will go down in history as possibly the greatest woman player the world has ever seen, and we have been privileged indeed to see her in action so many times at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers.
“It can surely be only a matter of time before she is able to claim one of the very few titles to have eluded her in what has been a long and distinguished career, and all eyes will once again be upon her next month as she competes once more in one of the strongest fields ever gathered outside of the Grand Slams.”
Serena will head a field that includes an incredible eight of the world’s top 10, including sister Venus, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Although Serena Williams has shown over and over again that she is one of the toughest competitors on the WTA tour, she is not infallible. With victory never guaranteed, especially against a field that includes nearly every player ranked in the world’s top 20, she recognises what a huge challenge she faces.
“The fact that she has never won the title also offers added excitement for Dubai tennis fans as, despite Serena being one of the best ever to play the game, they can never be certain who will come out on top in every match she plays.”
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 world number one and Australian Open inner Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open finalist Andy Murray and recent two-time Dubai finalist 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.