The new superstars of tennis are set to headline the action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships when play gets underway in just three weeks from now.
New world number one and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka and charismatic superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas head star-studded fields, with the women’s line up including former Dubai champions and Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova, former world number ones Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, and two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina. The men’s field is led by seven time champion Roger Federer, defending Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut and the newest superstar on the world stage, the giant-killing Tsitsipas.
No-one would have predicted a year ago that Osaka would not only beat her idol Serena Williams twice, but win the US Open and follow it up with a run to the Australian Open title. Her cliff-hanger three set victory over Kvitova not only saw her ascend to world number one, but she became the first Asian player, man or woman, to reach the summit of the game.
Following on from claiming the Sydney title two weeks ago Kvitova‘s run to the Australian Open final saw her rise to world number two for a second time, underlining her potential to recapture the Dubai crown that she won in 2013.
Dubai Duty Free ambassadors Wozniacki and Halep will be determined to improve on their start to the new season. Both former Dubai champions, 2019 saw Wozniacki suffer a second round upset in Auckland and then defeat by Maria Sharapova in the third round of the Australian Open. Halep was injured during the final weeks of the 2018 season and while still working her way back she lost her opening match of the season in Sydney before going on to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open where she fell to seven-time champion Serena Williams.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber always poses a threat, and she began 2019 in style by reaching the Sydney semi-finals and then reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. And no-one would discount Karolina Pliskova as a title contender after she reclaimed her Brisbane title and then earned a stunning win over Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals, winning from 1-5 down in the third set while saving four match points.
Defending women’s champion and also a Dubai Duty Free Ambassador, Elina Svitolina is bidding to become the first player from the WTA Tour to win three consecutive Dubai titles. She also reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne before losing to Osaka. Her confidence is high, especially after she ended her 2018 season by claiming the prestigious WTA Finals title.
While there is no shortage of household names competing for the title, there are several others who could spring a surprise. Ashleigh Barty is a feisty competitor who has made a great start to 2019, beating Halep on her way to her second straight Sydney final, and she overcame Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open before losing to Kvitova in the quarter-finals.
And another threat could come from Danielle Collins, who produced one of the biggest surprises during the Australian Open by fighting her way all the way to the semi-finals. Having never won a match in any Grand Slam before, her victims included Kerber who she allowed just two games.
The second week of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships also promises to serve up a rich feast of spectacular tennis.
Tsitsipas last year became the youngest player in ATP Tour history to beat four top 10 opponents in the same week in Toronto. But that was just a warm-up for the impact he made at the Australian Open where he claimed a stunning win over defending champion Roger Federer and then a hard-fought victory over Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut before bowing out to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
“His victory over Roger Federer in Melbourne transformed the 20 year-old from one of the most promising young players on tour to one who most definitely has arrived,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “There is nothing more exciting than watching a new star come to the fore, and we greatly look forward to seeing if he can repeat his Australian Open success in Dubai.”
Bautista Agut will not give up his title easily after beginning the season by beating Novak Djokovic on his way to claiming the Doha title, and then enjoying a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Federer has already broken the record for most Dubai titles overall, and after spending several weeks at number one during last season as well as setting several ATP Tour records, he will once again be the player that all eyes will turn to as he bids for his eighth Dubai crown.
But he faces many challengers. As well as the threat posed by Tsitsipas and Bautista Agut, Dubai debutant Kei Nishikori added his name to the list of in-form opposition when he began the season by winning Brisbane. Milos Raonic reached the quarter-finals in both Brisbane and at the Australian Open, and no-one should write off the chances of Daniil Medvedev, who began this season by reaching the Brisbane final and then reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Yet another player who definitely should not be discounted is two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych, who after missing the entire second half of last season with a back injury made an immediate impact upon his return earlier this month by reaching the Doha final and then the Australian Open fourth round.
“With almost every player from the WTA top 30 competing for the title competition has never been tougher, and whoever emerges as the winner at the end of the week will have done a magnificent job,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “It is also impossible to predict who will claim the men’s title, with so many players having performed so well in Australia. The only certainty is that we will see two weeks of outstanding tennis from many of the best players in the world.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which 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, begins with the WTA event which takes place between 17th and 23rd February, and is followed by the ATP event between 25th February and 2nd March.
Tickets are available online at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com and also available at the Stadium Box Office which is now open, 9am-9pm daily.
For further information about the tournament please visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.