Two-time Grand Slam finalist Zvonareva handed a wildcard for Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge

Slovakia’s Viktoria Hruncakova named top seed as last year’s finalists Elsa Jacquemot and Magdalena Frech are late withdrawls

By Team KT

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Vera Zvonareva of Russia shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 39.  - AFP File
Vera Zvonareva of Russia shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 39. - AFP File

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 5:14 PM

Former two-time singles Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva will join multiple doubles champion Kristina Mladenovic and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki as the three wild cards when the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge gets under way on Sunday.

Now 39, Zvonareva has been among the top performers on the WTA Tour while reaching her career best of World No. 2 in October 2010 as she reached back-to-back singles finals at Wimbledon and the US Open that season.

A former World No.10 in singles, much of Mladenovic’s success came in the doubles. The 30-year-old so far has six women’s doubles titles all achieved at Grand Slam level – four at the French Open and another two at the Australian Open. She has also won three mixed doubles titles, twice at the Australian Open and one at Wimbledon.

The tournament will get under way with the qualifying rounds at the Habtoor Grand Resort’s tennis courts from Sunday, December 4.

Slovakia's Viktoria Hruncakova is top seeded this week. - AFP File
Slovakia's Viktoria Hruncakova is top seeded this week. - AFP File

Following Friday’s deadline for entries, Slovakia’s Viktoria Hruncakova was handed top seed status along with a pack of talented youngsters including 2021 champion Daria Snigur, India’s No.1 Ankita Raina and former British number one, Heather Watson.

The initial tournament line-up had earlier featured last year’s finalists Elsa Jacquemot and Magdalena Frech, but both players were late pull-outs from the competition owing to other commitments on the WTA Tour during the week.

“No doubt, we will be missing out on our defending champion Elsa [Jacquemot] and losing finalist Magdalena [Frech], the top seed from Poland. But this current line-up is possibly the best gathering of talented players we can accommodate during this week as players head into their pre-season preparations,” Tournament Director Noura Badawi said

“Considering the names, we can surely look forward to a solid level of tennis during the course of the week. It has always been our aim to bring in the best talent into Dubai so that we can achieve our goal of promoting women’s tennis in the UAE and the Gulf region,” Badawi added.

Britain's Heather Watson. - Reuters File
Britain's Heather Watson. - Reuters File

Most of the players have already arrived in Dubai and are getting acclimatized with the conditions. Among the early ones getting an assessment of the surface late on Friday were Great Britain’s Emily Appleton along with Anastasia Kovaleva, Tereza Martincova and Dalila Jakupovic.

Featuring in the qualifying rounds that get under way on Sunday are Germany’s Mona Barthel and the Romanian duo of Andreea Mitu and Cristina Dinu.

“We enter a huge week for sport in the UAE, and the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge is one of the many tournaments happening. We have got everything sorted out for yet another successful competition,” noted Laith Al Ani, Director of Operations and Chief of Officials at AHTC.

Germany's Sabine Lisicki has been handed a wildcard by the organisers. - AP File
Germany's Sabine Lisicki has been handed a wildcard by the organisers. - AP File

“We have a totally relaxed set-up at the Habtoor Grand Hotel with the centre court getting an overhauling so as to accommodate more spectators. This week will be an ideal tournament for local UAE based people to come and watch these stars in action,” he added.

The draw ceremony for singles main round will be conducted on Sunday morning, December 4).

First held in 1998, the long list of past champions includes former Grand Slam winners and top-class players including Sorana Cirstea (2020), Ana Bogdan (2019), Peng Shuai (2018), Belinda Bencic (2017), Kimiko Date-Krumm (2012), Sania Mirza (2010), Maria Kirilenko (2007), Kateryna Bondarenko (2006),


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