Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 18, 2024

Americans dominate on Day 1 at the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Peyton Stearns

Opening day of 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships sees five Americans take to Centre Court, with four—Stearns, Navarro, Stephens, and Krueger— progressing
Tickets for ongoing women’s tournament and next week’s ATP 500 event are available now at dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com, with prices starting from Dh55

Dubai, UAE—February 18, 2024: The stars came out for the opening day of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships—and so did the stripes. Five Americans took to Centre Court on Sunday looking to book their place in the second round of the emirate’s WTA 1000 tournament in front of an expectant, multinational crowd.

Representing more than half of an eight-strong United States contingent competing in the main draw this week, Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin were in action inside the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium alongside Peyton Stearns, Emma Navarro, and wildcard Ashlyn Krueger. Caroline Dolehide and qualifier Bernarda Pera will get their campaigns up and running on Monday, while No. 3 seed Coco Gauff will take to the court the following day against Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

In what is the 24th edition of Dubai’s pioneering women’s tournament—the first to offer equal prize money for men and women—this year’s American contingent represents the second-largest in its history, bettered only by last year’s event when 10 Americans took part in the main draw. Such is the growing trend of Americans stopping off in the Gulf on route home from the Australian Open, that previous to 2017 the most Americans that had competed in Dubai was just three with most tending to head straight home in preparation for Indian Wells.

Stephens, who overcame France’s Clara Burel, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, on Sunday evening to set up a second-round tie Tuesday with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, is returning to the emirate for the first time in a decade. Back then she was one of only three Americans in the field, alongside sisters Venus and Serena Williams, the former of which went on to win the tournament for a third time. No American has reached the final since.

Former US Open champion Stephens, of Florida, noted as “weird” the unlikely fact four compatriots would be playing on Centre Court on the opening day. And she was at a loss to explain the recent influx of American participants to the illustrious Dubai tournament, which was awarded permanent WTA 1000 status this year.

Photos: WTA Day 1 action at the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

“I honestly have no idea,” she said when asked whether she had a theory behind the American invasion. “The schedule has changed and there is obviously now more opportunity to play here, which is great for players. For Americans, if you are going to do a three-week stretch and be strategic, it does now make more sense to come here and play a 500 [in Abu Dhabi] and two 1000s [in Doha and Dubai].

“For me personally, I’ve always had really bad jetlag when I’ve come here. That’s why I decided not to play here so much in the past 10 years, but while it’s really tough on me, other players are obviously totally fine. It is a better opportunity with the higher-level events and a good way to start the year if you can get some good matches and rack up some points early in the year. But specifically on each [American] player, I have no idea why they now come here.”

Emma Navarro

Earlier in the day, Dubai debutante Peyton Stearns saw off 16-year-old world No. 33 Mirra Andreeva, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, to claim a third WTA top-50 win and book a place in the second round. She will now face No. 7 seed Marketa Vondrousova. Immediately following Ohio-born Stearns’ success, compatriot Navarro took to Centre Court to face Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic. Navarro, a New York native, was forced to fight back from a set and 5-3 down to win, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, and book a second-round meeting with No8 seed Maria Sakkari.

As the sun set and Stephens wrapped herself in a post-match towel, Texan Krueger entered the court under the lights to face World No21 Caroline Garcia. The 19-year-old is making a maiden appearance in Dubai after playing in Abu Dhabi and Doha earlier this month. Having receiving a wildcard at the last minute, she made it count by fighting back to pull off the biggest win of her season so far and take out No. 16 seed Garcia, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

“I don’t know why so many Americans are suddenly coming to Dubai, but my coach told me before my match that every American had won today on Centre Court, so I figured I can’t let them down now,” Krueger said, smiling. “We all want each other to do well, and I think that’s really great. Especially the girls here, they are all young and up and coming, just like me, so it’s good to see us all doing good.”

Sorana Cirstea

In the final match of the evening, 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin failed to complete the stars-and-stripes clean sweep, falling to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in straights sets, 3-6, 6-7(2). Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the five-time Grand Slam doubles champion and 2013 Dubai doubles winner, also slipped out in the first round. Paired with Ekaterina Alexandrova, Mattek-Sands lost at the hands of Chinese duo Hanyu Guo and Xinyu Jiang. Yet even in doubles, Americans remain prominent with Nicole Melichar-Martinez, Desirae Krawczyk, Alycia Parks, Dolehide, and Kenin all scheduled to compete in the coming days.

The 24th edition of the annual WTA event takes place one week before the men’s event at the same venue. The women’s competition will run until February 24, before the 32nd staging of the ATP Tour 500 tournament from February 26 to March 2.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Tickets for both the women’s WTA tournament and the men’s ATP event remain available to purchase at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.

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