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 14, 2024

Love match: Couples and courtships on the ATP & WTA Tours

Denis Shapovalov

This Valentine’s Day, love is not only on the tennis court, but also in the air.

As players prepare to do battle at this month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, there’s another game being played—a game of the heart. In the world of tennis, love isn’t just a score of zero; it’s a complex dance in which being a doubles pairing can extend beyond the baseline.

With the world’s best male and female tennis players preparing to descend on Dubai for the annual WTA 1000 and ATP 500 tournaments respectively, we look at some of the most eye-catching relationships that have blossomed amid the backhands and highlight some of the sport’s more curious relationships when it comes to Cupid’s arrow.

  • Last year was a milestone year in the lives of Alexander Shevchenko and Anastasia Potapova, as the latter reached a career-high ranking of No21 in June while Kazakh Shevchenko broke the Top 100 and made his Grand Slam main-draw debut at Roland Garros. Yet off-court proved even more momentous as the two young players married in December after a whirlwind two-month engagement. Both are returning to the Emirate this month.

Paula Badosa

  • Dubai-based Paula Badosa reached as high as world No. 2 in 2022, has won three WTA Tour singles titles, and contested a quarterfinal at the 2021 French Open. Struggling with injuries of late, the Spaniard has been training here and is on the entry list for next week’s WTA 1000 event. Last week, she received a visit from long-term boyfriend Stefanos Tsitsipas, the two-time Grand Slam finalist.

Veronika Kudermetova

  • Veronika Kudermetova, the World No16, reached the final in Dubai in 2022 before falling to Jelena Ostapenko. She will return this year looking to go one step further and will, as she has throughout her career, lean on coach, husband, and former ATP player Sergie Demekhine for advice. Demekhine helped steer Vera Zvonareva to two Grand Slam finals and a World No2 ranking and started dating Kudermetova when she was 18. Two years later they were married.

  • Denis Shapovalov has only appeared in Dubai twice—reaching the semifinals on both occasions in 2021 and 2022. Suffering an injury-ridden season last year, he returns to the Emirate this month keen to get his career back on track. Off-court, things are going smoother having proposed to his girlfriend of four years Mirjam Bjorklund in June. Bjorklund, a 25-year-old Swede, has a career-high of No123 and qualified for her third Grand Slam at the 2023 US Open.

Elina Svitolina

  • Elina Svitolina is a two-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships titlist and became one of only three women to successfully defend her title in the Emirate when she won in 2017 and 2018. Since 2021, she has been married to Frenchman Gael Monfils, the former world No. 6 who reached the semi-finals of his native French Open in 2008, as well as the final four in Dubai in 2019 and 2020.

Other Curiosities

  • Dubai resident and world No. 18 Karen Kachanov is married to Veronika Shkliaeva, who has a twin who also goes by the name Veronika Shkliaeva, who is married to ATP Tour player Ilya Ivashka. Kachanov will play in Dubai for the eighth consecutive year; his best performance to date coming in 2020 when he fell to World No1 Novak Djokovic. Ilya, from Belarus, meanwhile has played in the Main Draw three times.
  • Sebastian Korda will make his Dubai debut this month, making tournament history as he follows in the footsteps of father Petr Korda, who played in the Middle East’s premier tennis tournament three times in the 1990s. While Korda’s father is also his coach and a former World No2; his mother is Regina Rajchrtova, who peaked at No. 26 on the WTA Tour and coached him as a child. A career in tennis was, unlike love, somewhat predictable.
  • Roger Federer, who holds a host of records at the Dubau Duty Free Tennis Championships, including most titles (eight), most finals (10), and most consecutive titles (three, shared with Djokovic), is also one half of an all-tennis power couple. The 20-time Grand Slam winner met wife Mirka, known then as Miroslava Vavrinec, when they were both representing Switzerland at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
  • Of course, when it comes to tennis power couples, nobody comes close to Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf. The pair, who will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary this October, share 30 Grand Slam titles between them, with Graf winning 22 during her career and Agassi adding eight more between 1992 and 2003. While neither won in Dubai, Agassi will forever be associated with the city after playing a historic match with Federer atop the Burj Al Arab in 2005.

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