A former World No.10 in singles, much of Kristina Mladenovic’s success came in the doubles.
Gulf Today, Sports Reporter
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.
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 made 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 – four at the French Open and another two at the Australian Open. She has also won thrice in the mixed doubles – twice at the Australian Open and once in Wimbledon.
The stage is set for the annual tournament that will get under way with the qualifying rounds at the Habtoor Grand Resort’s tennis courts, from Sunday.
Following Friday’s deadline for confirmations, it was Slovakia’s Viktoria Hruncakova leading the way as the top seed 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 related.
“Considering the names, we can surely look forward to a solid level of tennis during the course of the week,” she promised.
Meanwhile, some of the players have already landed and started with their preparations for the qualifying rounds that will start at the Habtoor Grand Hotel’s tennis courts, from 10 am, on Sunday.
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.
“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 the singles main round will be conducted on Sunday morning.
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.
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), Marion Bartoli (2005), Jelena Jankovic (2003) and inaugural winner Kyra Nagy (1998).
"I was going to stop right after the WTA Finals because we were going to make the WTA Finals, but I tore my tendon in my elbow right before US Open, so I had to pull out of everything," Mirza told the WTA Tour's website in an interview.
Slovakia’s Hruncakova – formerly going by her maiden surname Kuzmova – will meet Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, while Snigur – the 2021 champion at this tournament – will be up against Anastasia Zakharova at the lower end of the draw.
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.
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