Venus Williams given Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships wildcard

Mahak Mannan 10/02/2014
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Tennis legend: Venus WIlliams will compete at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Former world No 1 Venus Williams has been confirmed in the line-up for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after being granted a wild card entry into the tournament on Monday.

Williams has previously taken part in the Dubai tennis championship, that begins on 17 February, in 2002 and 2009, winning the title in 2010.

Despite reaching the finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, the American has been struggling for form at the start of this campaign.

Crashing out of the Australia Open in the first round for only the second time in 14 appearances, Williams held a 3-0 lead in the third set before dropping the next five games, being defeated by Elaterina Makarova on the tournaments opening day.

The 33 year-old is now ranked 37th in the world and there is little doubt that health problems, back injury and issues with Sjögren’s Syndrome have hindered the elder Williams sister's performances of late but will be looking to bounce back with tournaments coming thick and fast this month. 

Before heading to Dubai, Williams will be competing in the Qatar Total Open starting on 10 February and will make her way to the Emirates later this week.

“Venus Williams is one of the greatest players of this century and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her back to Dubai,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of tournament owners and organisers.

On her way to the 2009 title, Venus beat sister Serena, the current world No 1, in a semi-final that went to a third set tiebreak.

“Despite her being such an accomplished champion, the entry list for the tournament is so strong that her current ranking did not qualify her for direct entry into the main draw, and we are pleased to offer her a wild card,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak in the release.

That field includes Agnieszka Radwanksa (world No 3), who made it to the semi-finals in Melbourne last month, Ana Ivanovic (No 7), Sara Errani (No 14), Simona Halep (No 15), Jelena Jankovic (No 17) as well as defending champion Petra Kvitova and 2011 champ Caroline Wozniacki.

For more information on the tournament and how to obtain your tickets, visit: www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com

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Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship tickets go on sale

Mahak Mannan 13/01/2014
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The build-up to the 2014 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship takes a big step forward on Tuesday morning when tickets for the general public officially go on sale.

The championship, which gets underway with the women's tournament on February 17 before the men take to the courts on February 24, again boasts a stellar line-up of players. 

Four-time and current champion Novak Djokovic will be back to defend his title and the world No2 will be joined by the likes of Swiss legend Roger Federer, and world No7 Tomas Berdych. The big-hitting Czech will be seeking revenge having lost in the final to Djokovic last year.

In the ladies draw, world No5 and 2012 champion Agnieszka Radwańska, title holder and world No6 Petra Kvitova, and 2011 champions and world No10 Caroline Wozniacki have all confirmed their places. Indeed, six of the top 10 players in the world will be competing for the trophy at the Aviation Club.

With such an all-star line-up set to descend on Dubai, fans are being encouraged to get their tickets early from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Box Office in Garhoud (from 9am – 9 pm) or online at www.timeouttickets.com.

Spectators can choose from the Grandstand, Prime A or Prime B tickets. Grandstand ticket prices are Dh75 for the opening two days of both the men's and women's events, Dh100 for day three, Dh300 for day four, Dh400 for day five, and Dh500 for the Finals.

Alternatively, you can enjoy the action from a prime position on Centre Court with the Prime A and Prime B seats. Prime A seats, which are located in the first two rows of seating around Centre Court, cost Dh2,275 for either tournament and entitles the ticket holder to seats for the entire week. A 'Super Season' ticket is also available for Dh5,500 and includes tickets for both the men's and women's events.

Prime B seats, which are are located in the North stand, offer a slightly cheaper option, with season tickets available for Dh2,000 and 'Super Season' tickets for Dh4,000.

Not only will there be world-class tennis to enjoy on court, but plenty of action off court as well. A host of activities and attractions to entertain and engage spectators will be on every day of the tournament, including the catch and win game, with lucky audiences winning great prizes.

The Tennis Village will be bustling with roving entertainment, music, tennis games and autograph signings, all while screening the action live for its guests.

For more information on the tournament and how to obtain your tickets, visit: www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com

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Michael Llodra: The ATP’s own court jester

4/12/2013
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Last weekend he collected his first trophy in Dubai, winning the doubles title alongside India’s Mahesh Bhupathi.

French veteran Michael Llodra is enjoying his 15th year on tour, where he’s won three Grand Slam doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal.

Llodra’s prowess extends to the locker room where he is famed as the ATP’s No1 prankster. Stripping naked and hiding in Ivan Ljubicic’s locker one of many stunts he has pulled.

With Lacoste celebrating their 80th birthday, Sport360° caught up with Llodra, a long-time ambassador for the brand, to get a glimpse of what it’s like to spend all these years travelling and competing.

You’re known to be the tour prankster and I’m really curious, what kind of stuff do you pull off on your fellow players?

I cannot tell you. But I have a philosophy that you have to enjoy being on the court and sometimes when you’re focusing too much or you’re feeling too much pressure on your shoulders, it’s good to be relaxed and joke around a bit.

Can you at least tell me who was your latest victim?

I love to play jokes on Dmitry Tursunov. He’s a really funny guy and he’s one of my best friends on tour.

You have to make sure you live a good life and enjoy your time. You play a lot of singles and doubles, how do you manage your time and what’s your routine like to handle that?

It’s difficult to play good every week singles and doubles that’s what you have to manage. Sometimes you will play only singles, sometimes only doubles and sometimes both.

It also depends on the category of the tournament and also on your family. I have three kids so I have to make sure I can spend enough time with them. But it’s nice. I’m more close to the end than the beginning but you have to right the good combination.

Do your children travel with you on tour?

They’re coming next week. They’re going to be on holiday. My daughter is eight so she goes to school. Also my son. They’ll be spending two weeks with me.

Do you have any specific goals in terms of singles and doubles this season?

I don’t focus so much on my ranking. It’s not my priority. When I start my season I try to figure out where I want to play doubles and it’s pretty simple – I try to win the Slams, that’s the most important thing in tennis and then I choose my singles tournaments.

I was supposed to play singles and doubles in Rotterdam but I was sick so I pulled out, so the week after that I played both. It depends also how I feel on the court physically.

Do you have any favourite stops on tour?

It’s funny, you know I hate the tournament in Indian Wells, California, because it’s too slow and the balls are heavy but the atmosphere is amazing. And also Dubai I love to come here because it’s -5 degrees in Paris and it’s snowing and when I get here it’s 25 degrees and you can go to the beach. I have many friends living here and in Bahrain, so they came to watch me. And every night we go to a different place.

You mentioned Dmitry is a good friend of yours, who else are your best friends on tour?

I love Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich. And also the Belgian guy Olivier Rochus, we are the same age so we came through juniors together and we speak the same language. It’s tough because we travel a lot but also tennis is personal. You play on your own, sometimes you play doubles, but it’s difficult because when you lose you leave so you don’t have too many friends.

You’re a classic serve-and-volleyer, a style which becoming very rare nowadays, how difficult is it to play all those proficient baseliners that are so dominant right now?

I learnt to play like this so if I stay from the baseline I stand no chance for sure and I know that. It’s my style. It was better to play like that a few years back when it was faster but now when you play on the slow courts, you play some guy who is returning so well or has a great passing shot so you have to play aggressive.

Looking at your career, you’ve had some of your very best results at home in France, are you someone who particularly feeds off the energy from the crowd?

I feel very comfortable when I play at home especially in my hometown in Paris so the French Open or Bercy. It’s always special, you have all your family and friends and also my children. We travel too much and when you stay in your home city you feel really good.

Switching to football, I know your father Michel played for Paris Saint-Germain and that you’re a big fan of the club. How did you feel when it was taken over by the Qatari Investment Authority?

I love Qatar. It’s good for the football and for French football. They’re investing a lot in sport and it’s good for us. I support PSG and they have a very good team now.

What do you think of Beckham joining? It’s good, it’s good. He just played his first match so we have to see how he’ll do but I think he has good experience and he has good spirit on the pitch.

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