A loaded qualifying draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships promises to deliver some fierce competition starting Saturday at the Aviation Club.
With eight of the world’s top-10 players all competing in Dubai next week, and the tournament having a Premier-level, not Premier 5, status this year, only 28 players get to make it into the main draw meaning the cut-off ranking for entry is incredibly high.
Dubai and Doha alternate the Premier 5 status each season and this year, the UAE gets the lower tier event – featuring a smaller draw and less ranking points on offer – but the stacked field ensures it’ll be a high-quality affair nonetheless.
Madison Keys, Ashleigh Barty and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni have all pulled out of Dubai (so did wildcard Maria Sharapova), which made way for Ekaterina Makarova, Anett Kontaveit and Elise Mertens to move into the main draw.
The qualifying action taking place over the next three days before main draw matches begin on Monday will see a host of talented players fight for tournament spots. Entry is free and matches begin at 10:30am.
Here are three players to watch in the Dubai qualifying rounds.
The Arab No. 1 made it through qualifying last year then pulled off a surprise, upsetting 14th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round before falling to Wang Qiang.
Last May, the Tunisian became the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in singles when she claimed her first top-10 victory by shocking Dominika Cibulkova at the French Open.
With a deft touch that produces tantalising drop shots and a fun all-round game, the 112th-ranked Jabeur will be showcasing her talents in qualifying on Saturday.
She is searching for a first victory in 2018 and is coming off an opening round loss in Doha. The 23-year-old Jabeur will face Oman’s Fatma Al Nabhani in her Dubai qualifying opener.
The Japanese power-hitter is a real treat both on and off the court. Ranked 51 in the world, Osaka reached the Australian Open fourth round last month and is looking to make her second Dubai main draw appearance (lost in round two in 2017). The 20-year-old’s fiery groundstrokes can cause some real damage on the fast Dubai courts. She opens her qualifying campaign against fellow Japanese Nao Hibino.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) February 15, 2018
CARLA SUAREZ NAVARRO
Suarez Navarro is the top seed in the qualifying draw and opens against China’s Zhu Lin. The two-time Dubai quarter-finalist is making her way back up the rankings and has returned to the top-30 after reaching the last-eight at the Australian Open last month. The Spaniard was ranked No. 6 in the world two years ago and owns two WTA titles from 10 finals reached throughout her career. If you’re a fan of the one-handed backhand, then make sure you turn up for Suarez Navarro’s matches.
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