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Roger Federer, Belinda Bencic to be back to defend Dubai crowns

Gulf News 2020-01-12 14:04:59

Dubai: Roger Federer, who boasts of a record eight men’s singles crown here, will headline a star-studded field along with women’s world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month. Tickets for the two-week tennis extravaganza, to be held from February 17-29, will be available online from Monday (January 13).

Barty, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep will be joined by three more members of the world’s top 10, with US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, defending Dubai champion Belinda Bencic and Kiki Bertens confirming to make their bid to lift the winner’s trophy. As many as 14 of the world’s top 20 women will descend at the Dubai Tennis Stadium to make the 20th anniversary of the WTA week a resounding success.

The anniversary week will be followed by a star-studded ATP event which features Federer alongwith, 2019 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2018 champion Roberto Bautista Agut.

“2019 was only the second time in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships that two players from the same country emerged as our singles champions, and we are delighted to welcome Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic again,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We look forward to seeing if they can set a new milestone by successfully defending those titles, but they face competition from one of the strongest fields ever assembled in Dubai”.

Barty enjoyed a sensational 2019 which not only sent her soaring to world number one but saw her claim her first Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros and then close out the year by lifting the much sought-after WTA Finals trophy. She also won titles in Miami and Birmingham and no one was surprised when she was named the winner of ‘The Don’ Award, recognising her as Australia’s outstanding sportsperson of the year.

She will naturally be a favourite to add the beautiful Dubai trophy to her expanding portfolio, but former finalist Karolina Pliskova is just one of those who will stand in her path. The 2015 runner-up was involved in one of the most dramatic battles of the tournament last year when she was toppled in the quarter-finals after leading Su-Wei Hsieh 5-1 in the final set. Despite that disappointment, she claimed titles in Brisbane, Rome, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou before she closed out her excellent season by reaching the semi-finals of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

Former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep will bid to reclaim the Dubai crown she won in 2015. Chosen as the ‘2019 WTA Fan Favourite’ for a third straight year, she is one of the feistiest players on the WTA Tour and always great to watch.

Any challengers for the ATP title will have a mountain to climb as Federer, who defeated Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4 in the 2019 final to earn the 100th singles title of his career, as well as his eighth title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, is as strong as ever at the age of 38. He went on to claim three more titles and finish the season ranked number three in the world.

Tsitsipas returns for another try for the title he came so close to claiming last year. A season which had begun with him beating Federer at the Australian Open, ended on the highest possible note as he lifted the ATP Finals trophy in London, beating Federer again in the semi-finals before claiming a tense three-set victory over Dominic Thiem. He also won titles in Estoril and Marseille and finished as runner-up in Madrid and Beijing as well as Dubai.

Roberto Bautista-Agut, flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils will add depth to the field while a combative Italian Fabio Fognini is set to make his long-awaited Dubai debut after a solid 2019 season - that saw him win the ATP Masters event in Monte Carlo and finish the year ranked in the top 15 for the second year in a row.

While online tickets will go on sale from Monday at 9 am online at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com and prices start at Dh 55. Tickets will be available at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Box Office from Wednesday, January 29.