Defending champion Muguruza faces tricky start at Dubai Tennis Championships

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Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

Reigning champion Garbine Muguruza faces a difficult start to her quest for a second title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The two-time Grand Slam champion will begin her campaign against Danielle Collins, the Australian Open finalist.

The winner of this match will advance to the second round against former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka or Veronika Kudermetova.

The duo last met in the third round match of the 2020 French Open, where Collins defeated the Spaniard in a three-set thriller.

Collins is an exciting addition to the main draw. With so many top players entered this week, although she is now ranked No. 11, she originally faced having to qualify despite her Grand Slam status, as her ranking of 30 when entries to Dubai were finalised left her just outside the cut-off point. But illness and injuries to other players allowed her to take her rightful place among the elite bidding for the title.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Danielle Collins to Dubai for the first time, after she thrilled us all with her magnificent run to the Australian Open final last month,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We could not have wished for a more exciting first round to enjoy, and it will be fascinating to see which player will advance to the next round.

“We welcome so many of the world’s top 20 players, a number of whom are familiar faces who have already enjoyed great success in Dubai in previous seasons. We wish everyone well and look forward to the wonderful entertainment and drama that they are certain to provide.”

The world No.2 and top seed, Aryna Sabalenka, who is bidding for a unique Middle East treble, will face a qualifier in her opening match.

In what promises to be another tough battle on the cards, the Belarusian could lock horns with 2013 Dubai champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.

Sabalenka’s two out of 10 WTA singles titles have come in the region, as she won Doha in 2020 and last year added Abu Dhabi to her growing list of tournament triumphs.

She lost to Muguruza in the Dubai quarter-finals last year.

Kvitova, a two-time Grand Slam winner from the Czech Republic, also faces the daunting task of overcoming the dangerous Camila Giorgi.

Fans will also witness a battle between former Grand Slam champions in the first quarter, as 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin will square off with 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko.

The 2020 French Open champion and sixth seed, Iga Swiatek, will face 2018 Dubai finalist Daria Kasatkina in the first round.

Second seed Barbora Krejcikova, who made her first final of the season in Dubai last year before claiming her first three WTA singles titles later in the season, including the French Open, will take on wildcard Caroline Garcia in the first round.

In their most recent clash, Krejcikova brushed aside Garcia in straight sets in this year’s Sydney quarter-finals.

Also in the same quarter are fifth seed Maria Sakkari and two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, who both start their campaigns against qualifiers, and could face each other in the second round.

Svitolina is one of just three women to claim back-to-back titles in Dubai, having triumphed in 2017 and 2018.
Third seed Paula Badosa faces a tough road ahead as her quarter of the draw includes not only two-time Dubai champion Simona Halep, but crowd favourite Ons Jabeur and the promising Cori Gauff.

Halep will take on Alison Riske in the first round.
The Arab charge at the event will be led by No. 8 seed Jabeur and Egyptian wildcard Mayar Sherif.

Seventh seed Anett Kontaveit starts her bid for the title against the exciting Egyptian wildcard Sherif, and Jabeur will play Russian veteran, former world number two and double Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva.

The Tunisian became the first Arab woman to win a WTA singles title after winning the 2021 Birmingham Classic by defeating Daria Kasatkina in the final.

“There are so many outstanding matches to look forward to over the coming week, not only in the later rounds but from the very first day,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.

“There is no doubt that we will see a number of upsets as the week progresses, and it is with great anticipation that we wait to see who will be our champion this year,” he added.

The two-week tennis extravaganza begins with the WTA event’s main draw play beginning on Monday.

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