Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Garbine Muguruza accepts wildcard into Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Former world No 1 has returned to form after reaching the Australian Open final

Garbine Muguruza has reached two semi-finals in five previous visits to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Reuters
Garbine Muguruza has reached two semi-finals in five previous visits to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Reuters

Garbine Muguruza will aim to continue her encouraging start to the season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week after the former world No 1 accepted a wildcard into the WTA Premier event.

Muguruza, 26, will arrive in the UAE for the February 17-21 tournament in fine form having reached the Australian Open final. The Spaniard may even have a chance to avenge the Melbourne Park defeat as Sofia Kenin, who won the title with 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Muguruza, will also be competing in Dubai.

“Garbine Muguruza performed magnificently in Melbourne and came very close to adding to her collection of Grand Slam titles, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her back to Dubai,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“This will be her sixth consecutive time here and she has twice been a semi-finalist. We look forward with great interest to see how she fares here next week.”

Muguruza's displays in Australia offered a timely reminder of her talents after a spell of inconsistency. A two-time Grand Slam champion, Muguruza's struggles in 2019 saw the Spaniard end the year ranked No 36.

However, her run to the Australian Open final has elevated her back into the top 20 at No 16 and if she is able to build on her showings in Melbourne she could prove a serious contender in Dubai.

"I think it's a great start of the year, for sure," Muguruza said. "I don't think at all about the previous years - the good ones or the bad ones.

"I just started a new year, I have a new team. I didn't disappear, I was there. Not reaching final rounds, for sure [but] I'm just going to a tournament and see how far I can go.”

Muguruza's addition promises to make the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships lineup even more competitive, with six of the world's top 10 players all confirmed for the 20th anniversary tournament.

Romanian world No 2 and twice Grand Slam champion Simona Halep will be aiming to add to her 2015 triumph, while third-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova - whom Halep defeated in the final five years ago - bids for her first Dubai title.

Two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina will give herself the chance of winning the title for a third time in four years after the Ukrainian world No 4 accepted a wildcard into the tournament. The player who last year denied Svitolina the chance to win three in a row, Swiss world No 5 Belinda Bencic, returns to defend the title.

American world No 7 Kenin and ninth-ranked Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands complete the top 10 lineup, which will face a stern challenge from the WTA Tour's younger generation. Among those is 20-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who last year reached the French Open final, Belarus' world No 13 Aryna Sabalenka, and American teenager Amanda Anisimova.

Perhaps the most amount of intrigue ahead of the Dubai Championships surrounds a 36-year-old veteran who is making her comeback from a second retirement. Former world No 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters last week announced that she had accepted a wildcard into the tournament and will therefore compete in her first WTA Tour event since the 2012 US Open.

However, the tournament will be without two star names after world No 1 and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty and US Open champion Bianca Andreescu both withdrew due to respective foot and knee injuries.

Updated: February 12, 2020 03:06 PM

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