Venus Williams granted wildcard to compete in Dubai

Venus Williams has won the Dubai title in 2009 and 2010. (SUPPLIED)

Former world number one champion Venus Williams has been granted a wildcard and is set to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships which is now just days away.

One of the greatest players in the history of the game, the multi-Grand Slam winner and two-time Dubai champion will join a fantastic field that includes no less than six of the world’s top 10, including three other Dubai champions and one of the most exciting new names to join the elite at the top of the WTA Tour world rankings.

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

“She has given us wonderful entertainment in her many previous visits to Dubai and despite the problems she has suffered with her health she continues to demonstrate that she is still one of the toughest competitors in the game.

“We look forward very much to seeing her compete against so many fine challengers who have also chosen to make the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships an essential stop in their schedule. It is an honour to have them here.”

Williams first travelled to Dubai as long ago as 2002, losing in the semifinals to Sandrine Testud. In 2004 she fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals, and on her third visit in 2005 she suffered a shock first round exit to Sylvia Farina.

But since then the American has remained unbeaten, claiming the title in both 2009 and 2010 when she became only the second woman along with four-time champion Justin Henin to win multiple titles here.

Along the way she overcame the very toughest opposition, including world number four Elena Dementieva and none other than her sister Serena, in a stunning 2009 semi-final that finished in a thrilling third set tiebreak.

Since those heady days Venus has suffered a major setback with her health as she suffers from the debilitating Sjögren's Syndrome, which at one stage kept her off the WTA Tour for six months and threatened her very career.

But you can’t keep a great champion down, and she began the 2014 season by reaching the final in Auckland, where she eventually fell to Ana Ivanovic in three close sets. And that result came after she had enjoyed a successful second half of last season, when she beat world number two Victoria Azarenka on her way to the Tokyo semi-finals.

Earlier in the year she had also reached the semi-finals in Charleston, where she was beaten by her sister, and in Florianapolis.

And, always a threat in doubles with Serena, the pair beat the world number one team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci to reach the semi-finals of the US Open.

“Venus Williams has been a great attraction for many years wherever she plays and we are delighted to see her return to Dubai,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “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.”

Venus will join an accomplished field that includes defending champion Petra Kvitova along with 2011 winner Caroline Wozniacki, 2012 champion Agnieszka Radwanska, former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, former world number ones Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, 2013 Dubai and recent Paris Indoors runner-up Sara Errani and the WTA Most Improved Player of 2013 and recent Australian Open quarter-finalist Simona Halep.

A second wild card has been given to former world number three Nadia Petrova, who will bid to add to her 13 career singles titles.

The 31-year old has enjoyed a distinguished career in both singles and doubles. Injury during the second half of 2013 saw her restricted to just one event after Wimbledon, but when fit Petrova has proved she can beat the best, demonstrated by her victories over former Dubai champions Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki and others such as Serena and Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic and Samantha Stosur.

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 operated 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.

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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