Petra Kvitova will be bidding to become only the third woman in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to successfully defend her title when the grandest tournament in the Middle East begins on Monday February 17.
The Czech left-hander, who stunned the tennis world in 2011 when she hoisted the Wimbledon trophy, will attempt to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Justine Henin, who won the title in 2003/4 and again in 2006/7, and Venus Williams, who reigned as champion in 2009/10 and will be standing in her way in 2014.
Incredibly, Kvitova had not won a match in her two previous visits to Dubai, losing to qualifier Julia Schruff in 2009 and another qualifier, Ayumi Morita, in 2011.
But in 2013 she swept all the way to the title by defeating two former world number ones in Ana Ivanovic and 2011 Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki, as well as defending Dubai champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
“Petra Kvitova delighted us with her run to the title in 2013 during which she conceded just one set,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman of tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free.
“Many of the players will tell you that defending a title is even more difficult than winning it, and Kvitova faces a massive challenge not only from several Top 10 opponents but many other outstanding players who have risen to the top of the rankings and have an outstanding history here. We wish her well.”
Kvitova acknowledged that the enthusiastic spectators and relaxed atmosphere which is such an integral element of the event played an important part in her victory.
“The crowd and the atmosphere here is very nice. I'm enjoying every moment on the centre court and at the tournament” she said.
“The hotel, it's pretty close and it's so easy. When I played at 7:00 I was until 5:30 in the room and lying in the bed so that was really nice. It was just two minutes to on-site. I think that's very helpful and that's great. The organisation, everything was easy. The girls at the organisation desk were so nice. Everything was great.”
Now the player who ended the 2013 season as the world number six faces a massive task if she is to lift the trophy once again, with five other fellow members of the world’s top 10 to challenge her.
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak said: “Petra Kvitova was a deserving champion after such a fine display of tennis last year, but she will have to overcome a star-studded field to retain her title.
“With the current world number one Serena Williams, three previous champions in Wozniacki, Radwanska and Venus Williams, and former world number ones Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in the field the competition will be tough.”
Other outstanding opposition includes 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur, exciting young American Sloane Stephens, 2013 WTA Most Improved Player of the Year Simona Halep and Ekaterina Makarova, who in January stunned Venus Williams on the opening day of the Australian Open and earlier this month lifted the trophy in Pattaya.
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between February 17 and 22. Play then continues between February 24 and March 1 with the action-packed ATP tournament which includes defending champion Novak Djokovic, five-time winner Roger Federer, exciting Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro and recent Australian Open semi-finalist Tomas Berdych.
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 from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which is open from 9am to 9pm daily.
Grandstand ticket prices range from Dh75 for opening rounds to Dh500 for finals, with season tickets also available.
For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com or phone the call centre on
+971 4 4172415.
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