Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Iga Swiatek faces tricky test in star-studded tournament

The top eight seeds have received first round byes

By Team KT

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Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free; Salah Tahlak, Joint COO and Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, with other officials and tennis stars Sania Mirza and Paula Badosa at the draw ceremony. — Supplied photo
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free; Salah Tahlak, Joint COO and Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, with other officials and tennis stars Sania Mirza and Paula Badosa at the draw ceremony. — Supplied photo

Published: Sat 18 Feb 2023, 11:01 PM

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is set for a star-studded week of world-class action following the official draw for the WTA 1000 event, which takes place at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium from February 19–25.

With 64 players in the draw, including 17 of the world’s Top-20 ranked players, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships field includes five Grand Slam winners boasting a collective 10 Grand Slam titles between them.


The draw’s top eight seeds, who all feature in the world’s Top-10 ranked players, have received first round byes.

To reach the final in arguably the tougher side of the draw, top-seed Iga Swiatek, the reigning French and US Open champion, must emerge from a star-studded crop of players featuring France’s Caroline Garcia (seeded 4), the USA’s Coco Gauff (5), Greece’s Maria Sakkari (6), Kazakhstan’s reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina (9) – who lost the Dubai final in 2020; last year’s defeated Dubai finalist Veronika Kudermetova (10), Liudmila Samsonova (14); and Belarus’ two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka (15).


Fresh from claiming her first Grand Slam title in January’s Australian Open, Belarusian No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka occupies a side of the draw that includes the USA’s Jessica Pegula (3); 2018 Dubai finalist Daria Kasatkina (7); Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (8) – the Dubai winner in 2019; Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia (11); two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (12) of the Czech Republic – who last triumphed in Dubai a decade ago; the tournament’s defending champion and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko (13) of Latvia; and Ekaterina Alexandrova (16).

“This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the WTA tournament and it is remarkable how the tournament has grown alongside the men’s ATP event, which marks its 31st anniversary next week,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Over the years, the WTA tournament has grown significantly and continues to attract a stellar line-up – as evidenced in the field and today’s draw, this year is no exception.”

Elsewhere in the draw, World No.39 Leylah Fernandez, a likely crowd favourite in Dubai courtesy of the Canadian’s Filipino heritage, will play a qualifier in the first round before a potential showdown with World No.1 Swiatek in the second.

Finally, six players have received wildcards to enter the main draw, including Turkey’s Ipek Oz, revealed Salah Tahlak, Joint COO and Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.

“Dubai and the UAE always support other countries, and we hope Ipek’s place in the draw offers much-needed moral support to everyone in Turkey following the tragic circumstances affecting the country and its people,” said Tahlak.

In addition to McLoughlin and Tahlak, the Official Draw event was also attended by Ramesh Cidambi, Joint COO and Head of Tournament Organising Committee, as well as leading players Sania Mirza, the 2013 women’s doubles tournament champion, and former World No.2 Paula Badosa, who returns to tournament play in the emirate this week following a long-running thigh injury.

“I’m really excited to be back playing a WTA 1000 event in Dubai. I’m a resident here, so it’s like playing at home. It’s been a tough start to the year, and I’m excited to start my year here,” said Badosa, who revealed her joy at featuring in the hit Netflix show Break Point.

“It was fun and a very different experience, but it gives the fans a chance to get to know us a little bit better.”

WTA Supervisor Donna Kelso, UAE Tennis Federation Secretary General Naser Yousef Al-Marzouqi, Senior Vice President of Marketing Sinead El Sibai, and WTA Referee Clare Wood were also present at the draw, which was led by Kelso on her 16th consecutive year at the tournament.

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