February 26, 2024

Open Court


Despite delays, uncertainty, players not flocking to $100K Dubai ITF



As the departure for the Australian summer of tennis is delayed at least a few weeks – maybe longer – the WTA and ITF extended the deadline for a $100,000 ITF tournament in Dubai.

The tournament, an annual event, is to be held the week of Dec. 7.

At first, you’d have expected a meagre turnout. That was the week players intending to play the Australian Open (or qualifying) had to get on a plane.

Now, with most players already in pre-season training and nothing certain, you’d have also expected more players to decide to play.

But so far, it’s really not happening.

The deadline for the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge 2020 now is Monday at 9 a.m.

But so far, the majority of the players who are signed up and players that regularly play that event, including Dubai resident Kristina Mladenovic.

(Notably, the WTA and ITF have extended the original deadline of Monday, Nov. 23 for the first week of WTA tournament – and the Australian Open main draw and qualifying – a full week. The deadline now is Nov. 30).

Top-100 players in Dubai

Here is a list of the top-100 players who have entered so far, and their rankings.

(Update: Chinese players Wang Qiang and Zhang Shuai entered late, and should be the top two seeds).

Magda Linette (No. 40)
Kristina Mladenovic (No. 49)
Polona Hercog (No. 52)
Patricia Maria Tig (No. 56)
Heather Watson (No. 59)
Alison Van Uytvanck (No. 63)
Katerina Siniakova (No. 64)
Barbora Krejcikova (No. 65)
Sara Sorribes Tormo (No. 66)
Camila Giorgi (No. 75)
Danka Konivic (No. 77)
Kirsten Flipkens (No. 85)
Sorana Cirstea (No. 86)
Tamara Zidansek (No. 87)
Jasmine Paolini (No. 95)
Marta Kostyuk (No. 98)

They’re all European (assuming we still count the U.K. as Europe).

Top-200 players also entered

Ana Bogdan won the 2019 edition of the tournament (Habtoor Challenge/Twitter)

Other Australia-bound players who have entered include Anastasia Potapova (also based in Dubai), Tsvetana Pironkova, Greet Minnen and Lesia Tsurenko.

As well, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Timea Babos, Océane Dodin, Margarita Gasparyan, Aleksandra Krunic and Sara Errani also entered.

It makes for a very nice tournament. But it’s definitely not a hotter ticket because of the circumstances.

We hear Bianca Andreescu, now a Monte Carlo resident, is headed to Dubai for pre-season training.

It’d be fascinating to see if she tried to get a little match play in before resuming her career in Australia. Andreescu hasn’t played since the WTA Tour Finals in Shenzhen, in Oct. 2019.

There could be a little jostling for wild cards in the two weeks before the tournament begins.

Last year’s tournament, featuring many of the above players, was won by Ana Bogdan over qualifier Daria Snigur in the final.

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