The 20th edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships gets under way today with five of the world's top 10 WTA players vying for the trophy at this Premier event. With a stellar history of champions that includes the likes of Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Venus Williams and Amelie Mauresmo, this tournament has always been a favourite stop for the biggest stars of the sport.
This year the field will be headed by World No. 2 Simona Halep who would be itching to win her first title of the season at a tournament where she has fond memories of lifting the trophy in 2015. Halep displayed her usual fighting spirit and tenacity on her way to the semi-finals of the Australian Open where she lost to eventual runner-up Garbine Muguruza. The encouraging start to the year would propel her to give her best in a field that is sure to test her strength and determination to the maximum.
Aryna Sabalenka, who blew away the Romanian at Adelaide is the seventh seed and a potential opponent for Halep in the quarter-finals. The former World No. 1 also could be dealing with two-time winner and third seed Elina Svitolina, should she overcome the possible Sabalenka threat.
In a packed second quarter, the Ukrainian herself has to contend with the likes of Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza and Dayana Yastremska. The latter made a fine start to the year by marching her way into the Adelaide final and would be looking to get back to winning ways after a blip in Melbourne.
As for Muguruza, the Spaniard will be subjected to a stern test right from the start. Not only has she to live up to the expectations after the resurgence she exhibited in the first Slam of the year but she has the most-awaited first-round showdown with the comeback queen, Kim Clijsters. Needless to say, if Muguruza can find her range and can emerge victorious, it will be a huge boost of confidence for her.
The bottom half of the draw is led by the second seed Karolina Pliskova, who tasted title glory in Brisbane but her campaign in Melbourne lasted only three rounds. The Czech could be starting off her challenge against old pal, Kristina Mladenovic, whom she got the better of at the Australian Open.
But lurking in her part of the draw is the newly-crowned Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin as the fifth seed. A Kenin vs Pliskova quarter-final face-off could set off the fireworks between two of the hardest hitters and it would be interesting to see if the youngster can manage to carry on with her scintillating form.
Defending champion Belinda Bencic has the easiest of the four quarters on paper. Albeit, the Swiss needs to be wary of a few veterans in her section, starting with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is coming fresh off a quarter-final appearance in the first Major of the season.
Here's all you need to know about Dubai Tennis Championships:
Tournament: Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships
Category: WTA Premier
City: Dubai, UAE
Venue: Aviation Club Tennis Centre
Prize money: $2,908,770
Tournament schedule: February 17-22, 2020
Live Telecast: There will be no live telecast in India
Live Scores: Click herePublished 17 Feb 2020, 20:12 IST