One of the most glamorous tennis players in the world is preparing to make another bid to claim the coveted Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships crown when play gets underway next week.
Ana Ivanovic first played in Dubai as a qualifier in 2005 and she has since gone on to reach the quarter-finals three times, but all too often her path has been blocked by formidable opposition.
Last season she fell to eventual runner-up Karolina Pliskova and in 2014 she was beaten by Venus Williams who went on to win the title for the third time.
In 2013 she was defeated by eventual champion Petra Kvitova and in 2012 she fell to defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
“It has always taken the very best to defeat Ana Ivanovic and prevent her reaching the final days of the tournament,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.
“It is surely only a matter of time before she can overcome that hurdle and take the extra step that will match her results with the ability she has shown on so many occasions.”
Last year Ivanovic enjoyed yet another successful season as she reached the final in Brisbane, in Paris she advanced to her first Grand Slam semi-final since she won the title there in 2008, and she claimed a number of impressive victories which included a win over Venus Williams and another against soon-to-be crowned Moscow winner Svetlana Kuznetsova on her way to the semi-finals in Beijing.
So far this season she has struggled, with first round defeats in Auckland and Sydney and a third round loss at the Australian Open.
To achieve success involves far more than just practising for hours every day, but Ivanovic is experienced enough to know exactly what she needs to do to stay at the top.
“Everything in moderation,” she told Vogue last year. “I keep a healthy body, a healthy look. It’s important not to be obsessive about anything - fitness, training, eating - because then you end up focusing on only that. And you can’t obsess about anything when you’re on the road. I lift weights, I’ll do a lot of running, a lot of cardio and strengthening. I use my body weight, a TRX (home and portable training equipment) sometimes. A lot of it is endurance.”
Meanwhile, she has been proud, alongside Wozniacki, to represent Dubai Duty Free as an ambassador as she travels the world on the WTA Tour.
"For as long as I can remember, Dubai Duty Free has been one of the biggest supporters of women's tennis,” she said. “I am thrilled with my partnership with such a wonderful brand. As part of my role as their Global Ambassador I've taken part in many exciting activities and learnt a lot more about the culture of the region. I'm looking forward to coming back to Dubai in 2016 to compete for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title."
Ivanovic will, as always, face a strong challenge as many of the world’s best players make their own bid for the title. But no-one would write off her chances of success.
“Although Ana has always performed well in Dubai, the former world number one and Grand Slam champion’s outstanding results elsewhere suggest that she can do even better here,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak.
“She is a crowd favourite wherever she plays and has many fans in Dubai, and it would delight many if she can progress even further in the tournament this time.”
With the women’s week coinciding with half term break for many of the schools in the UAE, a host of new activities for fans of all ages are on offer both on court and in the Tennis Village.
This year’s programme features a busy daily schedule of children’s activities, including a kids’ tennis freestyle workshop and performances from a tennis trickster, photo opportunities with players, autograph sessions, bouncy castles, arts and crafts, face painting, sponsor activities and entertainment by the new tennis break dancer team.
Along with the activities there are numerous competitions to win great prizes including the opportunity to meet and have a hit with the world’s best players, and win finals tickets.
And in a special offer this year, the Irish Village will be offering an exclusive Tennis Menu at lunchtime during the WTA week.
Those who enjoy the special menu will also receive complimentary afternoon passes for the first three days of the first week, and 15 lucky families will also win tickets to the WTA finals.
More prizes are on offer for kids who enter the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships design competition in the Irish Village.
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between February 15 and 20 and features world number one Serena Williams, Wimbledon finalist Garbiñe Muguruza, Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber, 2015 WTA Finals and 2016 Shenzhen champion Agnieszka Radwanska, and former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic.
Play then continues between February 22 and 27 with the ATP tournament featuring four-time champion Novak Djokovic, Australian and French Open winner Stan Wawrinka, two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and charismatic Australian Nick Kyrgios.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are on sale at the Box Office at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, which is open from 9am to 9pm daily and online at http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets