Tikhonova is new Al Habtoor Tennis champion in Dubai

Runner-up Hartono admits to running out of steam as Babos and Zvonareva win doubles crown

By Team KT

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Anastasia Tikhonova hits a forehand return in the final on Sunday. — Supplied photo
Anastasia Tikhonova hits a forehand return in the final on Sunday. — Supplied photo

Published: Sun 10 Dec 2023, 8:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 10 Dec 2023, 8:56 PM

Anastasia Tikhonova brushed aside Dutch girl Arianne Hartono 6-1, 6-4 to be crowned the new singles champion at the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge that ended at the Habtoor Grand Resort in on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Hartono – who had to encounter tough three-setters on a couple of occasions earlier in the draw - simply didn’t seem to have anything left in her tank against her 22-year-old opponent.

Tikhonova, on the other hand, simply went about with her task to register a couple of breaks and win the first set 6-1 in 39 minutes.

She maintained he grasp on the match in the second set as well, but Hartono was in no mood to give up easily.

Eventually, Tikhonova found a way through to serve out for the set and match in nearly an hour and a half to be crowned the new champion in front of a capacity crowd.

Shaikh Hasher Al Maktoum, President of UAE Tennis Federation (UAE TF) joined Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founder of the Al Habtoor Group, Ahmad Abdul Malik from the UAE TF and Tournament Director Noura Badawi, to present the trophies and prizes to the finalists.

Cherishing her first-ever W100 win on the WTA along with prizemoney of $15,239 (Dhs 55,500) was 22-year-old Tikhonova. “Honestly, I had nothing much to prove to anyone coming here this week. I just wanted to prove my true potential against some of the best players on the women’s circuit. I think I did well in pushing myself throughout the week,” Tikhonova said.

Anastasia Tikhonova smiles at the presentation ceremony. — Supplied photo
Anastasia Tikhonova smiles at the presentation ceremony. — Supplied photo

“This is the biggest title of my career and I am glad that I could achieve it here in Dubai. For now, I cannot believe I have won. I am glad to be finishing the season on a high and with the biggest title of my career so far,” she added.

Beaten finalist Hartono admitted that that three tough games in the earlier round took a toll on her.

“I felt so empty on court,” Hartono shrugged after the final.

“And even if I didn’t end with a cherry on top of the cake with the title, it doesn’t mean this week was good for me. I’ve got a few positives to take away for sure,” Hartono said.

“This week has shown that I am capable of playing at a high level. I think that every day I have de-livered a top-50 player sort of performance. This week has given me this extra belief that I can push my potential further up,” she added.

Meanwhile, the top-seeded pair of Timea Babos successfully defended her doubles crown along with former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva as they won 6-1, 2-6, 1-0 (7) against Great Britain’s Olivia Nicholls and Heather Watson.

Doubles winners Timea Babos, Vera Zvonareva and runners-up Olivia Nicholls and Heather Watson. — Supplied photo
Doubles winners Timea Babos, Vera Zvonareva and runners-up Olivia Nicholls and Heather Watson. — Supplied photo

Babos had won the doubles last year 6-1, 6-3 along with her regular partner Kristina Mladenovic with whom she has won four Grand Slam titles in doubles.

This year, she chose Zvonareva – a five-time Major winner in doubles – and came through easily against the British pairing of Nicholls and Watson.

“This year’s title here is more special for me as it is like a dream for me to partner a great player like Vera, who was already top in women’s tennis when I was a kid,” Babos said of her senior partner.

Zvonareva, the former world No.2 is involved with the Top Spin Tennis Academy in Dubai, where she acts as a coaching consultant.

“I am very happy with this title as I now live in Dubai. I’ve got kids here whom I train and I hope they can find the inspiration to do better than me in the future,” Zvonareva added.

Gutted at losing the final, Watson believed that she and her partner Nicholls gave everything during the week. “But the reality was that we were up against multiple Grand Slam champions, and it was never going to be easy,” Watson admitted.

“This is my first time with Heather in a doubles competition, and I think we only got better as the week progressed,” Nicholls offered.

“We had been waiting for a long time now to play along with each other. And now that we have done it, we think we can give our Fed Cup captain something to think about,” she joked.

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