World No13 Elina Svitolina will be looking to extend her seven-match winning streak with a good performance at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she reached the semi-finals last year.
The Ukrainian is seeded No7 at the Aviation Club and will open her campaign against either Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena or a qualifier in the second round (she has a bye in the first).
Svitolina is drawn to face third-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals and is in the top half with No1 seed Angelique Kerber.
The 22-year-old’s last WTA tour outing was a title victory in Taipei earlier this month, which she followed by claiming two wins in Fed Cup last weekend.
“I am really excited for this tournament, for this week. I have been here since Tuesday, so I have had some time after Fed Cup to recover and to get ready. So I am looking forward to my match,” Svitolina told reporters in Dubai on Saturday at the draw ceremony.
“It’s going to be a very tough week for everyone. There are lots of good players, good field of players. So it’s going to be very exciting for Dubai and for the fans.”
Kerber has a bye in the first round and awaits the winner of the clash between 2005 runner-up Jelena Jankovic and German wildcard Mona Barthel.
A possible quarter-final opponent for Kerber is No8 seed Elena Vesnina but the German world No2 might first need to dispense of tricky Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, the No15 seed en route.
Cibulkova, a semi-finalist in Doha this week, plays Ekaterina Makarova or a qualifier in the second round and could get No16 seed Roberta Vinci in the third.
The bottom half of the draw – which appears to be the tougher side – is headlined by No2 seed Karolina Pliskova (who’s in the Doha final on Saturday) and No4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Former Dubai semi-finalist and No5 seed Garbine Muguruza is also in that side of the draw, so are 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki and Russian teen Daria Kasatkina, who will square off in a mouth-watering first round at the Aviation Club.
No6 seed Johanna Konta was going to make her Middle East debut but has pulled out with a foot injury. Her spot in the draw was taken by Barbora Strycova the No9 seed. Strycova, or No11 seed Coco Vandeweghe – the Australian Open semi-finalist, can face Pliskova in the quarter-finals.
With Dubai being a Premier 5 event this year – the tournament alternates that status with Doha each season – 900 points will go to the champion, which would be enough for Kerber to overtake Serena Williams once again in the rankings and rise to No1.
Svitolina is hoping she too can one day be in the position to claim that coveted spot.
“My main goal is to be No1 in the world. So I am always motivated to win the tournaments, to win more titles. This year, I have won one, so I am looking forward to 2017. I have worked really hard during the preseason, so it’s going to be hard, but I am looking forward to new challenges,” said Svitolina.
Bacsinszky joins growing list of Dubai withdrawals. Becoming an annual tradition at this tournament pic.twitter.com/gzcloZ1Z73— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 17, 2017
Is she giving herself a time frame to achieve that goal?
“I try not to look – I have this goal, like big picture, and I am looking just to give my best each day, each practice, each tournament, 100 per cent and then we will see how it goes.”
Projected quarter-finals by seed
Angelique Kerber (GER x1) v Elena Vesnina (RUS x8)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x3) v Elina Svitolina (UKR x7)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x4) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP x5)
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) v Barbora Strycova (CZE x9)