UAE tennis fans will see 17 of the world's top 20 women's players at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after French No 1 Marion Bartoli was given a wild-card berth.
Bartoli is ranked No 11 after reaching a career high of No 7 in 2012.
"Marion Bartoli has missed only one year of our tournament since she successfully came through the qualifying rounds in 2005. In that first year she also played an ITF event in Dubai and emerged from that as the champion," said Colm McLoughlin, the Dubai tournament official.
Bartoli has found it difficult in Dubai to repeat the success she has enjoyed elsewhere. She has won seven titles, but the farthest she has reached in Dubai is the third round, on three occasions. However, she has a history of giant killing, having beaten No 1 Victoria Azarenka, who also will play in Dubai, in Miami last year, ending Azarenka's 26-match winning streak.
Bartoli recorded a genius-level score on an IQ test as a child and uses this to her advantage.
"Sometimes it helps to be smart on the court," she said. "What helps me is the way I'm thinking on the court, trying always to figure out a solution. It helps me. Sometimes players come up with Plan A and never get a Plan B."
Bartoli joins Azarenka, Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki at the event, which begins on Monday.
The ATP World Tour event commences on February 25 and will feature No 1 Novak Djokovic, defending champion Roger Federer, and top-10 rivals Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic.
Meanwhile, at the Qatar Open in Doha, Radwanska beat an error-prone Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 7-6 to reach the quarter-finals, where she was joined by another former No 1, Wozniacki.
The fourth-ranked Radwanska made quick work of the former No 1 from Serbia in the first set, breaking her four times amid windy conditions.
Ivanovic did not help her own cause, committing 21 unforced errors and only getting 63 per cent of her first serves in. The second set was much closer, with Ivanovic winning it on a tiebreak. Radwanska put it away with a lob that Ivanovic hit weakly into the net.
“She really start to play much better in the second set, and I think she didn’t make any easy mistakes,” Radwanska said.
“I really need to just play my game. She didn’t give me any free points in the second set. It was really close. But I’m very, very happy that I could close this and win in two sets, because, in the third set, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Wind also played havoc in Wozniacki’s 7-6, 6-3 win over Mona Barthel of Germany as they struggled to hold serve.
Wozniacki broke Barthel a second time and was up 5-3 before the German ran off three games to put her on the verge of winning the first set. But the Dane forced the tiebreaker and won it.
Wozniacki settled down in the second set, breaking Barthel twice to go up 5-1. Barthel won the next two games but Wozniacki served out the match.
“It wasn’t great tennis out there. The wind was a huge factor, and it seemed like the wind took more on this court than it did on centre,” Wozniacki said.
There was no such problems for Azarenka, as the Belarus world No 1 defeated Christina McHale of the United States, 6-0, 6-0.
Russia’s Maria Sharapova beat Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3.
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