From left: Umayma Rajab Mohamed, Vickie Gunnarsson, Belinda Bencic, and Nouf Ali pose for a picture after the draw.
The stage is set for the opening rounds of the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, with the top seeds learning their pathways to potential glory following the official draw event.
The draw event took place on Saturday night at the Galleria Mall in Al Maryah Island with representatives from Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, IMG, WTA and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic all in attendance with the evening providing an exciting opening ahead of the kick off to the new event on the WTA calendar, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023. The draw was filled with top 20 players and produced some exciting matchups in the singles category.
Fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko will take on Danielle Collins at the International Tennis Centre’s Stadium Court on Monday evening as both open their campaign in Abu Dhabi. Following this, on Tuesday sees a battle between two former World No1s – Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova, as they come face to face in the first round.
Their mammoth tie will be the highlight of day two which also features Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk’s contest against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, while fans can also watch Belgium’s Elise Mertens take on Italy’s Martina Trevisan in the other singles’ matches.
Top seed and World No.8 Daria Kasatkina received a bye into the last-16 stage and could face a challenging last-eight test in the form of either Collins or Ostapenko.
Kasatkina could then see a last-four rematch against fourth-seed Veronika Kudermetova, who she beat at last year’s French Open quarter-final.
In the other half of the draw, Australian Open 2023 finalist and reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, seeded third in Abu Dhabi, is another player to receive a bye.
She will face a second-round test against the winner of the clash between two-time Grand Slam champion and wildcard Muguruza and Pliskova.
Fans will be treated to not one, but two appearances from World No.9 and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, as she takes to court in both the singles and doubles draw, lining up alongside Mertens in their first-round clash against Poland’s Alicja Rosolska and New Zealand’s Erin Routliffe.
On facing a wildcard in the form of Marta Kostyuk or Sorana Cirstea in the second round, Bencic said: “I can’t wait for play to get underway here in Abu Dhabi. It is always exciting to play a new event and this is no exception. I come into the tournament pretty happy with my game and look forward to entertaining the fans in Abu Dhabi and hopefully going a long way in the tournament — it would be very special to be the first name on the trophy.”
There will also be a number of doubles specialists on display – with India’s Sania Mirza expected to get a lot of local support in Abu Dhabi. Sania has six Grand Slam doubles titles to her name, and was a finalist again at the Australian Open, where she partnered Rohan Bopanna in the mixed doubles.
She said: “I can’t wait to play in the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open for the first time. The UAE has become my second “home” and can’t wait to be able to finish my career here over the next month.”
Sania was pipped to the title in Australia by Brazil’s Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos, with Stefani also appearing in Abu Dhabi.
Vickie Gunnarsson, Director of Tennis at IMG said: “The draw for the singles at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open has thrown up some really exciting matchups and we cannot wait for play to finally get underway. There has been a lot of anticipation, with the level of talent on display, and the fact this is a ground-breaking first hosting of the event.”
Sunday saw the tournament get underway with the singles qualifying rounds. On a day which attracted many fans, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez beat Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets 6-1, 6-2. Stadium Court also saw another straight set victory, as Shelby Rogers claimed a 6-2, 6-3 win against Vera Znovareva.