Credited with promoting women’s tennis in the Arab world for more than two decades, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman, Al Habtoor Group, has launched another tournament.
Aimed at giving a further boost to the game, Al Habtoor Women’s 25K kicked off at the Habtoor Grand Resort in Dubai on Monday with 55 promising starlets, representing 19 countries, competing for the prize purse of $25,000. The champion will be decided on April 4.
Ankita Raina, India’s top singles and doubles tennis player, Russia’s Valeria Savinykh and Zhu Lin of China are some of the top names participating in the competition.
The Indian tennis star will be gunning for the singles title as she won the doubles crown at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge alongside Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia last year.
Currently India’s No.1 in both women’s singles (since 2013) and doubles (since 2019), Raina was one of the stars as India qualified for the playoffs of the Fed Cup for the first time ever, clinching one of the two berths on offer at the Asia/Oceania Group I tournament held at the Dubai Tennis Stadium last year. In April 2018, the 27-year-old had entered the top-200 singles rankings for the first time, becoming only the fifth player from India to achieve the feat.
Habtoor is also the architect of Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) which was founded in 1998 to encourage the development of women’s tennis in the UAE and through the Arab world.
The tournament was the first professional women’s tennis event in the region and over the years, it has attracted some of the top players and kick-started the careers of now well-known players like former world number one Jelena Jankovic (champion in 2003), Marion Bartoli (2005), Maria Kirilenko (2007) and Sania Mirza (2010).
The 23rd edition of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge was held in December last year.
“The UAE is an oasis of peace and security in the world. The world is still reeling under the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the difficult times, Dubai has emerged as a safe haven for sport activities,” said Habtoor.
“We are proud to be hosting this event. The decision to organise the new tennis competition came in the light of suspension of many tennis events across the world. The Habtoor Al Habtoor Women’s 25K will give promising players an opportunity to compete and stay in shape. It will also put the spotlight on what Dubai has to offer to the world during the coronavirus crisis,” he added.
“Undoubtedly, we can be proud of what we have achieved for Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in the last 23 years. When I founded the tournament in 1998, it was my personal pledge that I would support women’s tennis in the region and worldwide.”
Habtoor also thanked the International Tennis Federation, Dubai Sports Council and the UAE Tennis Federation for their continued cooperation.
Hailing the Chairman of Al Habtoor Group for promoting the game, Noura Badawi, tournament director for Al Habtoor Women’s 25K, said: “The new event has attracted a lot of upcoming players. Keeping with our policy, the new event will surely provide a platform for future stars.”
Savinykh, a world No.226, has competed in Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in the past and is excited to play in the new competition.
“I am always happy to come back and play here at Habtoor. It is one of my favourite tournaments in the world. It will be a difficult week of tennis as the event has attracted some tough players,” Savinykh said.
Emina Bektas, an American tennis player of Bosnian descent, said: “I have heard a lot about the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge. Really excited to compete here for the first time.
“I will try to give my best shot to lift the trophy,” said the winner of three singles titles and 17 doubles titles on the ITF Circuit.