18 February 2017 -- Dubai, U.A.E.: Angelique Kerber faces a tough challenge as she bids to recapture her number one ranking at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week. The German claimed the top spot late last season from Serena Williams, but slipped back to number two following the Australian Open. A title this week would see her return to the top, but she faces some formidable obstacles.
Her first opponent after a first round bye could be former world number one and tour veteran Jelena Jankovic, and if she overcomes that hurdle she could then run into Rio Olympics singles champion Monica Puig. Others in her half of the draw include WTA Finals champion and Dubai third seed Dominika Cibulkova, 2016 Dubai finalist Barbora Strycova and one of the most in-form players of recent months, Elina Svitolina.
Former world number one, 2011 champion and Dubai Duty Free Brand Ambassador Caroline Wozniacki is seeded 10 but also faces a challenging opening match against Daria Kasatkina, who handed Kerber an early defeat in Doha, and she is in a quarter of the draw that also includes French Open winner and number five seed Garbine Muguruza and another former Dubai champion, 2012 winner Agnieszka Radwanska.
With the top eight seeds having byes into the second round, second seed Karolina Pliskova also faces a tough opener as she could face recent St Petersburg champion Kristina Mladenovic. Third seeded Cibulkova plays Elena Makarova or a qualifier and fourth seeded Radwanska will play Tsvetana Pironkova or St Petersburg runner-up Yulia Putintseva.
Muguruza will play either Kateryna Bondarenko or a qualifier, and sixth seed and 2017 Sydney champion Johanna Konta will take on Lesia Tsurenko or wild card Peng Shuai, a recent finalist in Taipei. Seventh seeded Svitolina will play a qualifier or Lara Arruabarrena and eighth seeded Elena Vesnina will play Madison Brengle or Misaki Doi.
As well as Peng, wild cards were given to Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey, and Germany's Mona Barthel.
"Several players who might be expected to claim the title face intimidating opponents right from their first match and we could well see some upsets from the very start," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "We can expect to see many interesting battles throughout the week and at this stage it is impossible to guess who could end the week as our champion."
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, "Many of the players competing for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title have been in excellent form already this year, with several claiming titles. Some of them, such as Hobart champion Lauren Davis, are unseeded and could well spring a surprise upon their higher-ranked opponents. It is certain to be a very interesting week."
Play in the WTA event begins on the 19th and continues until 25th February. The second week of the carnival of tennis takes place between 27th February and 4th March and features the 25th anniversary of the ATP World Tour event that includes world number one, Wimbledon, Olympic and ATP World Tour Finals champion Andy Murray, Australian Open and seven-times Dubai champion Roger Federer, US Open winner and defending Dubai champion Stan Wawrinka, two-time finalist Tomas Berdych, 2016 Dubai finalist Marcos Baghdatis and flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for every day of the event including the finals are still available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are also available online through www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.