World No. 1 Swiatek on course to meet two-time Dubai champion Svitolina

AFP / Karim Jaafar

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek is on course for a potential match-up with two-time Dubai winner Elina Svitolina in the third round following the official 56-player draw for the WTA 1000 event, as part of Dubai Duty Free Championships.

Swiatek, a four-time Grand Slam winner who reached the final in Dubai last year, will first face 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Her half of the draw also features the  likes of 2023 US Open champion World No. 4 Coco Gauff, World No. 6 Ons Jabeur, 2017 French Open champion and World No. 10 Jelena Ostapenko, and recent Australian Open finalist Qinwen Zheng. 

The impressive women’s field for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships includes 15 of the world’s top 20 players, including 10 Grand Slam winners boasting a collective 17 Grand Slam titles between them.

“This year marks the 24th anniversary of the WTA tournament, which has constantly grown, even more significantly in the past 12 months as our competition was recently awarded permanent WTA 1000 status from this year onwards,” Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free said.

“It’s fantastic to see so many of the world’s top players here again – 15 of the world’s top 20 is a testament to the esteem our event continues
to enjoy on the WTA Tour.”

On the opposite side of the draw, back-to-back Australian Open champion and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka is on course to meet World No.8 and reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals.

The 2022 Wimbledon winner, Elena Rybakina, World No. 9 Maria Sakkari, and the 2020 Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin, are among those who will stand in her way as she vies to progress past the quarterfinals in Dubai for the first time.

The Official Draw event was attended by Arab superstar Jabeur, 2017 and 2018 Dubai winner Svitolina, and World No. 27 Donna Vekic. Jabeur is relishing making her ninth appearance in Dubai after injury prevented the current Tunisian No1 from participating in last
year’s event.

“It’s always amazing to come here,” said Jabeur, who reached the French Open and Wimbledon final last year. “Dubai is my home, so I’m excited to start the season very well here. The most important thing is, of course, to be healthy, so I want to win more matches and achieve more. I’m very fortunate to play here in Dubai and so many tournaments in other Arab countries, and it has really helped me become the player I am
today. It is my dream to see more women from this region play tennis and reach a high level.”

Svitolina, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year just nine months after giving birth, added: “I missed last year, but always have great memories here on centre court: Winning my first big tournament here, entering the top 10 for the first time, so this tournament holds a very special place in my heart… My daughter is now watching the matches, so I have to win for her.”

Vekic, who has played in Dubai only once, is hoping to better her previous performance here: “I’ve played only once here and lost to Ons in the first round, so it wasn’t a very memorable tournament for me, but it’s always great to be in Dubai, and I look forward to improving on last time.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is set to get underway on Sunday, and run until February 24.

The 24th edition of the annual WTA event takes place one week before the men’s event at the same venue. The women’s competition will run between February 18 and 24, before the 32nd staging of the ATP Tour 500 tournament from February 26 to March 2.

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