Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic pose for a picture after winning the doubles crown at the 2022 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.
Gulf Today, Sports Reporter
An array of talented stars will descend in Dubai during the course of this week in preparation for the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) that is scheduled to take place at the Habtoor Grand Resort in Dubai Marina.
With last year’s runner-up Magdalena Frech as the top seed this time, the annual competition is bound to witness a grand display of quality tennis when the event gets under way with the qualifying rounds this Saturday (Dec.3).
The Frech-led line-up looks especially appealing with the first seven players all among the top-150 on the WTA Rankings. In the mix, seeded No.9 will be defending champion Elsa Jacquemot of France.
“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 in the Gulf region. In keeping with this, we now have the two finalists of last year being among the first to confirm their participation,” Noura Badawi, Tournament Director, told media personnel earlier this week.
“It will be engrossing to see some new players coming through, or we may have the two finalists from last year heading for a second confrontation before the Dubai crowd yet again. Whatever the results, we will be assured of some top-quality women’s tennis during the course of the week,” Badawi added.
There are a couple of players from Slovakia in the top-5 with Viktoria Hruncakova as the second seed with a WTA Ranking of 116, while Rebecca Sramkova is the fifth seed with her WTA Ranking of No.132.
Previous champion, the 21-year-old Daria Snigur from the Ukraine is the third seed with a WTA ranking of 124, while Maria Timofeeva is the fourth seed with a WTA Ranking of 130.
The player's presence gets even better heading towards the lower end of the top-10 with Arina Rodionova of Australia as the sixth seed, while Czech Republic’s Tereza Martincova has been seeded No.7. The eighth seed is Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund, while Jacquemot will commence the defence of her crown as the ninth seed and Great Britain’s cunning warrior Heather Watson will sign off as the tenth seed.
The draw ceremony for singles main round will be conducted on Sunday morning (December 4). Jacquemot stunned the more experienced Frech 7-5, 6-2 in last year’s final to win her first professional title at the popular W100+H event on the ITF World Tennis Tour.
The top-seeded pair of Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic – with 13 Grand Slam doubles among them – defeated Kateryna Bondarenko and Frech, 6-1, 6-3 for the doubles crown at the 2022 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge last year.
First held in 1998, the long list of past champions include 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), Marion Bartoli (2005), Jelena Jankovic (2003) and inaugural winner Kyra Nagy (1998).
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 this week.
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