Players arrive for 24th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge


A majority of the players headed by the top three Chinese have already arrived for the annual 24th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge that is scheduled to get under way at the Habtoor Grand Resort, from Sunday.

The top three Chinese players Zhang Shuai, Zheng Saisai Xinyu Wang were among the first to turn up for a practice session at the tennis courts of the Habtoor Grand Resort, on Saturday.

In what is a first at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, Zhang Shuai will be the top seed followed by her Chinese compatriots Zheng Saisai and Xinyu Wang when the tournament gets under way with the qualifying rounds from 10 am, on Sunday (November 21).

Held for a record 24th year this year, the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge is also the first time that the top three players hail from the same country.

Former multiple Grand Slam doubles champion Kristina Mladenovic, who had abruptly stopped her 2021 season from the beginning of October to take some much-needed rest, was among the late withdrawals from the competition here, late on Friday. She will be replaced by Egypt’s Sandra Samir, who has been given a wild card this week.

Also landing for a quick practice session was 2018 Al Habtoor champion and fifth seed Romanian Ana Bogdan, who will be having her eyes set on being the only player to win the Dubai crown on two occasions.

Fifth-seeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, No. 6 Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and No. 9 Polona Hercog of Slovenia are also among the early players at this event.

Held under the patronage of Khalaf Al Habtoor, Chairman, Habtoor Group since 1998, the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge is classified as a $100,000+H ITF Women’s Circuit tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

The tournament began as a $25,000 ITF competition and was then classified as a $75,000 event from 1999 to 2015. Since 2016, this has been upgraded to a $100,000+H ITF event with some of the biggest names from professional women’s tennis making an appearance.

Last year, Sorana Cirstea became only the second successive Romanian player to win the singles crown when she got the better of Czech girl Katerina Siniakova in three sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-3).

Mai Dubai, Hilton, V Hotel, Habtoor Palace, Emirates International School, Habtoor Grand Resort and Diamond Lease are among the sponsors of the tournament.

Played at the Habtoor Grand Resort, the oldest professional tennis tournament for women in the region will see a singles’ draw of 32 players and a doubles’ draw of 16 vying for the ultimate champions’ trophies when the finals are held on November 27 (Saturday).

The qualifying rounds for the eight empty slots into the main draw will get under way at the Habtoor Grand Resort tennis courts from 10 am on Sunday.

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