Jelena Ostapenko will be part of a stellar line-up for the DDF Tennis Championship
Dubai Sharapova and Key pull out of DDF Tennis Championships
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has joined the stellar line-up that will battle for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title later this month, adding her name to a star-studded field that includes a further seven of the world's top 10 and three other reigning or former Grand Slam winners.
In 2017 the Latvian became the first player from her country to win a Grand Slam title and, ranked 47 at the time, the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1933. The 2014 Wimbledon junior champion has since gone from strength to strength and has firmly established herself as a member of the world's top 10.
"It was a great surprise to everyone when Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open last year, defeating former Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki before crowning her spectacular two weeks with victory over world number four Simona Halep in the final," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. "She has made fantastic progress since her first visit to Dubai in 2016 when she was beaten in the qualifying rounds, and we look forward to seeing how she fares this month against what is a world-class field of other top achievers."
Ostapenko not only claimed her first Grand Slam title in 2017, but during the best season of her career so far she added a title in Seoul. She was also the runner-up in Charleston, a semifinalist four times and a quarterfinalist in Acapulco and at Wimbledon, where she defeated reigning Dubai champion Elina Svitolina. She also claimed a victory over Wimbledon winner and world number one Garbine Muguruza in Wuhan. All that success meant that a year after ending the season ranked 44, she qualified for the elite player field at the WTA Finals in Singapore, featuring the top eight players in the world.
At the end of December she beat Serena Williams in an exhibition match in what was the American's first match since giving birth but has struggled in the early days of this season, losing in the first round in both Shenzhen and Sydney and the third round of the Australian Open before recovering to reach the quarter-finals in St. Petersburg.
"Jelena Ostapenko has now established herself as one of the very best players in the world, and when she arrives here she will be determined to improve on her modest start to the season," said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. "Although she faces formidable opposition in the form of so many other champions she has clearly demonstrated that she belongs among the favourites for the title."
Ostapenko joining the field brings the number of top ten players contesting the prestigious Dubai title to eight, in a line-up which includes four Grand Slam champions, and four former world number ones.
Among those she faces are reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, 2018 Shenzhen champion, Australian Open finalist and world number two Simona Halep, defending Dubai champion and recent Brisbane winner Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber, 2016 US Open finalist and former world number one Karolina Pliskova and 2018 Auckland champion Julia Goerges.
The tournament begins with the WTA event that takes place February 19-24 before it continues February 26-March 3) with the 26th staging of the ATP World Tour event which includes an intriguing mix of rising stars and experienced champions
Two star players pull out
Former world number one Maria Sharapova and U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys have pulled out of next week's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the tournament organisers said on Thursday.
Five-times grand slam winner Sharapova, who had a accepted a wildcard to make her first appearance at the tournament since 2006, decided to withdraw citing a forearm strain.
Sharapova lost her opening round match at the Qatar Open on Monday to Romania's Monica Niculescu in three sets and is currently ranked 41 in the world.
The 30-year-old Russian has a 21-10 win-loss record since her return from a doping ban last April.
American world number 14 Keys, who was expected to make her Dubai debut, has withdrawn due to illness.
"Unfortunately both Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys have regretfully had to withdraw from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships due to injury and illness," tournament director Salah Tahlak said in a statement.
"We are sorry that neither Maria nor Madison will be able to play in Dubai, but we still have one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the WTA event.
"Maria said that she is very sorry she cannot be here and hopes to come back next year. We wish her and Madison a speedy recovery."
The tournament begins on Monday with world number two Simona Halep set to lead the field alongside defending champion Elina Svitolina.
Maria Sharapova has pulled out of DDF Tennis Championship due to an injury.