Simona Halep announces withdrawal from Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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Halep is not fit to play in the UAE.

World No2 Simona Halep has become the latest star to withdraw from next week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The Australian open runner-up, who progressed through to the semi-finals of the Qatar Total Open on Friday, announced after her victory against CiCi Bellis that she would not be able to complete the tournament nor compete in the UAE.

The Romanian cited a foot issue as the reason why – an MRI showed fluid and tendinitis – and revealed she will not play again until at least Indian Wells, which begins in early March.

“I am surprised that I could play three matches and to win them. I felt pain every day, so it was not easy to manage it,” Halep, who had initially accepted a wildcard for Dubai, told a press conference in Doha. “I didn’t have much time to recover before this tournament, but today was too much, and I decided to stop.”

BREAKING: @Simona_Halep has withdrawn from @QatarTennis and @DDFTennis due to a foot injury–> https://t.co/Rmpwjq4h3H pic.twitter.com/OpWtUeTthI

— WTA (@WTA) February 16, 2018

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French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to compete at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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Ostapenko will compete at the Aviation Club.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has joined the stellar line-up that will battle for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title later this month, adding her name to a star-studded field that includes a further seven of the world’s top 10 and three other reigning or former Grand Slam winners.

In 2017, the Latvian became the first player from her country to win a Grand Slam title and, ranked 47 at the time, the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1933.

The 2014 Wimbledon junior champion has since gone from strength to strength and firmly established herself as a member of the world’s top 10.

“It was a great surprise to everyone when Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open last year, defeating former Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki before crowning her spectacular two weeks with victory over world number four Simona Halep in the final,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“She has made fantastic progress since her first visit to Dubai in 2016 when she was beaten in the qualifying rounds, and we look forward to seeing how she fares this month against what is a world-class field of other top achievers.”

Ostapenko with the French Open trophy.

Ostapenko not only claimed her first Grand Slam title in 2017, but during the best season of her career so far she added a title in Seoul. She was also the runner-up in Charleston, a semi-finalist four times and a quarter-finalist in Acapulco and at Wimbledon, where she defeated reigning Dubai champion Elina Svitolina. She also claimed a victory over Wimbledon winner and world number one Garbine Muguruza in Wuhan.

All that success meant that a year after ending the season ranked 44, she qualified for the elite player field at the WTA Finals in Singapore, featuring the top eight players in the world.

At the end of December she beat Serena Williams in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi in what was the American’s first match since giving birth but has struggled in the early days of this season, losing in the first round in both Shenzhen and Sydney and the third round of the Australian Open before recovering to reach the quarter-finals in St. Petersburg.

“Jelena Ostapenko has now established herself as one of the very best players in the world, and when she arrives here she will be determined to improve on her modest start to the season,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. ”

Although she faces formidable opposition in the form of so many other champions she has clearly demonstrated that she belongs among the favourites for the title.”

Ostapenko joining the field brings the number of top ten players contesting the prestigious Dubai title to eight, in a line-up which includes four Grand Slam champions, and four former world number ones.

Among those she faces are reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, 2018 Shenzhen champion, Australian Open finalist and world number two Simona Halep, defending Dubai champion and recent Brisbane winner Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, 2016 US Open finalist and former world number one Karolina Pliskova and 2018 Auckland champion Julia Goerges.

The tournament begins with the WTA event that takes place between February 19-24.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 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.

Grandstand ticket prices for the WTA event start at AED55 for opening rounds to AED735 for the ATP finals, with daily Prime A and Prime B tickets and season tickets also available. (All inclusive of VAT).

Tickets are on sale online, and from the Box Office, which is open 9am-9pm daily. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets and for further information about the tournament visit: www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.

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US Open finalist Madison Keys to make her debut at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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US Open finalist Madison Keys has already made a massive impression on the sport elsewhere, and now she is primed and ready to add the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title to her lengthening list of accomplishments.

She became one of the youngest players to win a match on the WTA Tour, at the age of just 14 years and 48 days, and was the first American woman to debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999, entering at 10 in June 2016 before rising to seven later in the year, becoming the best player to emerge from the United States in nearly two decades.

This has resulted in some expert observers believing that she could one day be the best player in the world.

Keys suffered a major career setback in 2017 when she had to undergo two rounds of wrist surgery, but she rebounded from that to enjoy a tremendous last few weeks of the season.

After recording just five wins under her belt up until August last year, she defeated recent Wimbledon champion and world number four Garbine Muguruza on her way to claiming the Stanford title, before enjoying a stunning run to the final of the 2017 US Open with a third round victory over Dubai champion Elina Svitolina along the way, losing to close friend Sloane Stephens.

That could have presented a difficult situation for them both, but not only did they sit and chat together after the match while waiting for the award presentation to take place, they went out together that night for Stephens’ celebration party.

New era: Sloane Stephens downed Keys in the final of the 2017 US Open.

New era: Sloane Stephens downed Keys in the final of the 2017 US Open.

“You figure out how to separate your friendship from being on the court and I think when we come off the court we’re able to leave what happens there and still have a great friendship off of the court,” said Keys.

“We have known each other for so long and we have been through so much that we wanted to share that moment (after the match) with each other. To be able to share my first Slam experience with a really close friend when it’s also her first Slam was a really special moment.

“There’s no-one else in the world that it would have meant as much as it did (to be with).”

This year saw Keys lose her opening match in Brisbane where the luck of the draw pitted her against Johanna Konta, but she went on to enjoy an excellent Australian Open where she reached the quarter-finals before falling to 2016 champion and former world number one Angelique Kerber.

“Madison Keys has proved she can compete at the very highest level, and we were thrilled to see her reach her first Grand Slam final at the US Open last year,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“Our 2005 champion Lindsay Davenport has been a valuable part of her coaching team and she is obviously destined for even more success in the future. We wish her well as she makes her debut in Dubai.”

“It was wonderful to see how Madison was able to overcome such adversity in the first half of last season to then end it on such a high note,” added tournament director Salah Tahlak.

“That showed the mark of a true champion and she will certainly be a leading contender for the title later this month.”

Elina Svitolina will aim to defend her 2017 crown.

Elina Svitolina will aim to defend her 2017 crown.

Keys will be part of what is certain to be two fantastic weeks of tennis, which begins with the WTA event that takes place from February 19-24 and includes Wimbledon winner Muguruza, defending Dubai champion and recent Brisbane winner and reigning Dubai champion Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Kerber, 2018 Australian Open runner-up Simona Halep and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova.

Also competing are two-time Wimbledon winner and 2018 St. Petersburg champion Petra Kvitova and 2018 St. Petersburg runner-up Kristina Mladenovic.

The tournament continues between February 26 and March 3 with the 26th staging of the men’s ATP World Tour event which includes reigning ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov and recent Montpellier winner Lucas Pouille.

Grandstand ticket prices for the WTA event start at Dh55 for opening rounds to Dh735 for the ATP finals, with daily Prime A and Prime B tickets and season tickets also available. (All inclusive of VAT).

Tickets are on sale online, and from the box office, which is open 09:00-21:00 daily. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/ticket.

For further information about the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.

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