Simona Halep gets wildcard for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
A stunning four of the world’s top five and six of the top 10 will compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event next week after defending champion and world number three Simona Halep, 2015 Dubai finalist Karolina Pliskova and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova accepted wild cards into the tournament.
“We are thrilled that once again so many of the very best players in the world have chosen to compete at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.
“Three former Dubai champions will be taking part and four players who are or who have been ranked number one in the world will also participate. We can be certain that every day will provide great entertainment and drama as so many battles for one of the most coveted trophies in the sport. We wish everyone well and look forward to seeing who will emerge as our 2016 champion.”
Halep had announced that she would have to miss the event in order to undergo surgery, but the temptation to defend her trophy at one of her favourite stops on the WTA Tour proved too much to resist. Last season was the best of her career as she not only won in Dubai, but also in Shenzhen and Indian Wells, and she finished as runner-up in Toronto where she had to retire due to heat illness, and in Cincinnati. She was also a semi-finalist in Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and at the US Open, and she finished the season as the world number two.
“I learnt how to play without pressure when I have to defend something, to defend points or the title,” said Halep, explaining her success. “And I learnt that if I’m relaxed and enjoying what I’m doing, it helps me concentrate better and I can win tough matches.”
Pliskova also enjoyed an outstanding season after finishing as runner-up to Halep in Dubai. She was a finalist at four other events and won her fourth career singles title in Prague, and in August she reached a career-high of seven in the rankings. She was also a semi-finalist in Antwerp and Tianjin, and she capped off the year by playing a vital role in the Czech Republic’s victory over Russia in the Fed Cup final, earning two of her country’s three wins in the five match competition. Last weekend she continued to excel for her country as her three Fed Cup victories against Romania put her nation into the 2016 semi-finals.
Kvitova also took part in that 2015 Fed Cup triumph and she will be bidding to recapture the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy she claimed in 2013. Winner of Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, in 2015 she won titles in Sydney, Madrid and New Haven to bring her total to 17. Kvitova also finished as runner-up at the elite WTA Finals in Singapore, and she reached the semi-finals in Shenzhen. Now after a disappointing January, she will be seeking to kick-start her 2016 with another triumphant run in Dubai.
“With so many top players participating not all will be able to play on centre court and that will give Dubai tennis fans the unique chance to see a number of the best players in the world competing on the outside courts free of charge,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “No other tournament in the world can offer such an opportunity. Unfortunately our 2012 champion, Agnieszka Radwanska, has had to withdraw due to injury, but she has been replaced by 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.”
The WTA event kicks off on February 15 and also features world number one Serena Williams, Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza, former world number ones Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, and top teenager Belinda Bencic.