Dubai: While most of the attention at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week will fall on world number one and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, and superstar Serena Williams, holder of the Wimbledon, Olympics and US Open crowns, they will not be alone as strong challengers for the title.
Petra Kvitova has proved over and over again that she can win at the very highest level by not only reaching number two in the rankings and lifting the Wimbledon trophy in 2011 but leading the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title in both 2011 and 2012.
Another player capable of staging an upset is Sara Errani, who last year was the most improved elite player on the WTA Tour. She enjoyed an astonishing rise up the rankings in 2012, beginning the year ranked 45 and ending at number six. Her success in singles was matched on the doubles court too, where she rose from 27 to world number one.
This year the Italian has continued in similar fashion by reaching the final of the Paris Indoor event in singles, while in doubles she advanced to the Sydney final before winning titles at the Australian Open and Paris.
Kvitova will be anxious to continue her recent improvement in what had been a modest start to her 2013 season, with success at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to Dubai this year,” she said.
“I didn’t have the best start to the year in Australia, but hopefully after Fed Cup I can turn that around. I will try and show my best tennis on the court.”
Good results count for a lot of course, but there are other things that have drawn Kvitova back to Dubai.
“I like that the crowd is quiet and respectful during matches,” she said.
“I enjoy the beautiful site, with the swimming pool and the gardens, very much. I love seeing the sun every time I come to Dubai, especially after a cold winter in Europe! We are usually very busy during the tournament but I would love to see more in Dubai. Maybe this time I will have time to go to the city and do some good shopping!”
Like Kvitova, success in Dubai has been hard to come by for Errani, although she has come up against formidable opposition in her two previous bids for the title.
On the first occasion she clashed with world number one Serena Williams in the second round and fell in three sets, and the next time she met world number five Samantha Stosur at the same stage.
Since their last visit in 2011 both Kvitova and Errani have firmly established themselves at the top of the game and each has proved themselves capable of great things on the court.
As well as Azarenka and Williams, Kvitova and Errani face further top-10 challengers in defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011 Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki, 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur and German number one Angelique Kerber, a recent semi-finalist in Sydney.