DUBAI: Serena Williams, who was crowned World No.1 on Friday night, could face world Number 11 Marion Bartoli in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship which begins on Monday.
The reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic champion, Serena, seeded second, and Bartoli, who was given a wild card in the event, were drawn on the same half along with defending champions Agnieska Radwanska (no.3 seed) and 2011 winner Caroline Wozniacki (8th seed).
“We are thrilled to have the Dubai championships for the 21st year and the 13th edition of the women’s event,” Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman of the tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free, told media persons during the WTA draw held in Dubai on Saturday afternoon.
“We have 17 players from the top 20 and nine from the top 10 at this event,” McLoughlin said, whilst welcoming some old faces in Dubai.
Salah Talak, the tournament director, said there will be some exciting matches to look forward to in the coming week whilst disclosing the three wild cards – Bartoli, rising UK star Laura Robson and Yulia Putintseva of Kazhakhastan.
Azarenka will be anxious to wrestle her number one ranking back, and the top seed also faces a stiff challenge in her opening match against either world number 12 Nadia Petrova or recent Sydney finalist Dominika Cibulkova. She could then meet American teenager Sloane Stephens, who sensationally knocked Serena Williams out of the Australian Open last month.
“I love the tournament with the hotel nearby. It is always a pleasure to come back to Dubai,” said Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who was present at the draw. Julia Goerges, the 2012 finalist here, said it is a warm welcome to be in Dubai from the freezing Germany.
“It is always nice to come here and compete against the best players,” said Goerges, who is among the upcoming stars in tennis. “People ask me when there will be another Steffi Graf. Although it is difficult to have another Steffi, we are happy to see many German players on the circuit now,” she added.
He country mate Angelique Kerber (fourth seed), who is returning after a gap of one year said he was excited to be back in Dubai. “I had a great year in 2012 and we Germans will try our best to the same this year,” added Kerber.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which takes place from Feb.18 to March 2, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.