Svitolina to face Muguruza in first round of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship
Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur, Karolína Plíšková, Steve Simon Chairman & CEO, WTA, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Dubai Duty Free, Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director, Ramesh Cidambi, Chief Operating Officer, Dubai Duty Free, Sinead El Sibai, Senior Vice-President Marketing, Dubai Duty Free, Donna Kelso, WTA Tour Supervisor

Staff Report

The draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday produced a stunning opening round clash between two-time champion Elina Svitolina and recent Australian Open finalist and two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza.

The match will give third-seeded Svitolina an early opportunity to avenge her recent defeat by Muguruza in the third round of the Australian Open, when the Spaniard allowed her just three games. Ironically, the two wild cards played each other in Dubai a year ago, with Svitolina beating Muguruza with the same 6-1 6-2 scoreline in the second round.

With Karolina Pliskova, Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur in attendance, along with WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simons, many waited with great anticipation to see who Tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters would face in the first match of her comeback to the game. She faces a difficult task against sixth seed Kiki Bertens, and even if she should she survive that battle her quarter of the draw also includes Svitolina and Muguruza as well as top seed and former champion Simona Halep, who has a bye into the second round.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova also has a first round bye and will then play a qualifier, which should allow her a smooth start to her campaign to go one step further than she did in 2015, when she lost to Halep in the final.

“Of course it’s great memories coming back to Dubai, it’s been five years since I played the final, but hopefully this time can also be a good tournament for me,” said Pliskova. “I’ve had so many vacations in Dubai, it’s a lovely city, there’s lots of things to do so I’m sure we’re going to have a great time.”

Fourth seed and defending champion Belinda Bencic has a potentially difficult task as she takes on Australian Open quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who overcame both Svitolina and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber in Melbourne before losing to Muguruza. Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin opens against Elena Rybakina.

“We are delighted to once again welcome so many of the best players in the world to Dubai,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “The draw for our 20th anniversary of the WTA event has produced the prospect of many thrilling matches for us all to enjoy, none more so than the first round meeting between Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza. We wish all the players well and look forward to seeing who will emerge as the champion.”

“Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “So many highly-ranked players are taking part in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships that it was inevitable that we would get clashes between the very top names right from the start. The match between Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza would not be out of place as the final at any event in the world, and it will be fascinating to see who survives to reach the second round.

“It is also an honour to welcome Kim Clijsters to Dubai for the very first time, and she clearly has a challenge on her hands in her first match for eight years. We are also very happy to offer Ons Jabeur a wild card after not only her wonderful performances at the Australian Open but throughout 2019. No opponent will take her lightly.”

“It’s very special for me to be here, to play in an Arabic country,” said Australian Open quarter-finalist Jabeur. “I’ll try to do my best to play well here, thank you for the wildcard and this opportunity, I’m really happy. They told me no pressure, you just have to win the tournament!”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins with the WTA event which runs from 17th to 22nd February and then continues between 24th and 29th February with the ATP tournament which features Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Roberto Bautista Agut. – abdulbasit@theuaenews.com