Dubai Tournament Director Salah Talak says that the presence of former World No.1 Kim Clijsters and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin would be among the highlights for him at this year's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which gets underway for the women on Monday.
Speaking to the Gulf News, Talak says, "For sure, the presence of former world No 1 Kim Clijsters and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin would be right there at the top. Dubai has always been a city of opportunities and I am glad Clijsters has chosen our tournament to make her comeback.
Much will depend on the draw and we hope she makes it deep into the competition here. She is 36 and at the other end is the young Kenin. So it will be interesting to see two different eras of tennis where Dubai will strike a blend between two generations.
And then we have our very own Ons Jabeur who is back here after becoming the first Arab woman to advance to a Grand Slam quarter-finals." This year marks the 20th edition of the women's event and Talak says that with six of the Top 10 in the world, he is sure that the competition will be tough and intense.
"2020 is a special year for Dubai and the UAE as we mark the Dubai Expo. It also bodes well for us as this is the 20th anniversary of our women’s tournament and we want to make it special. Initially, we had a full field with eight of the top-10 and 10 of the top-20 confirming for our tournament, including Ashleigh Barty.
We were thrilled with the quality of the field. But tennis is a difficult sport and we have injuries post-Australian Open. So we’ve landed with six of the top-10. We still have a pretty solid assembly of players including recent winner of the Australian Open Sofia Kenin, Melbourne runner-up Garbine Muguruza, 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, defending champion Belinda Bencic and another former world No 1, Karolina Pliskova.
And then we have a legend like Kim Clijsters who has chosen Dubai to make her comeback for the second time in her career. Lower down in the field we have China’s Qiang Wang, who defeated former world No 1 Serena Williams in the third round in Melbourne, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.
With the array of players we have this year, I expect competition to be intense and tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have many more three-hour matches. The players today are all top-quality athletes with very similar levels of play.
I can’t really predict the finalists at this stage as competition is really going to be tough in the first week itself. And for sure, tennis will be the winner." Talak adds that they have not been organising the tournament for money but for aligning themselves with the 'Dubai vision' laid down by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
"I think people have to realise that we do not organise this tournament for the money. Our main focus is totally different. We are not here for a Return on Investment, nor do we seek to make money from this event. Our main focus is and will always be to align ourselves with the ‘Dubai Vision’ laid down by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
That’s why he is our patron since the start of the men’s tournament way back in 1993. We have never forgotten that at Dubai Duty Free we are here to promote Dubai on the world stage. Another aspect that we need to consider is the feel good factor that such an event creates within the community, while also giving people an opportunity to witness some of the greatest individual athletes in action right here."