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 2019 – DUBAI, UAE: Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur will face defending champion Elina Svitolina at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after surviving a tough challenge from Donna Vekic on Monday, fighting off two set points before clinching a 6-4 7-6 victory with her third match point.
The second round clash is not a match that Svitolina will take lightly, after Jabeur in her final tournament of the 2018 season qualified in Moscow and then went all the way to the final, defeating world No. 8 and former US Open winner Sloane Stephens before losing in three closely-contested sets to 2018 Dubai runner-up Daria Kasatkina. Despite that disappointment the former French Open junior champion made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a final on the WTA tour.
She is proud to be a flag-bearer for Arab and African tennis and takes her role seriously, and that includes a desire to be a mentor to others from the continent who want to follow in her footsteps.
“For me, I’m really happy to represent Tunisia. I’m trying to give my best, to behave good on the court, to try to give a good example for the young generation who want to achieve what I’m doing right now. I’m trying to send a message that it’s not impossible. You have to work hard. Why not? I want to see a lot of players from Tunisia to be here one day. It’s one of my dreams.
“I had to go to the tournaments, discover on my own. I had to have my own experience. Okay, facilities are very important, but (so is) to find someone who can guide you to the top level, because it’s really tough to be here. That’s why I want to share my experience. I want to, like, give this to the kids who don’t have to go through what I went through, so I can save them some time or I can share my experience. Either in Tunisia or Africa, I’m really happy to do it.”
Among other matches Elise Mertens, seeded 16 and fresh off claiming the biggest title of her career in Doha, fell 5-7 6-4 7-5 to qualifier Zhu Lin in a two hour 58 minute marathon. Alison Riske beat 13th seed and former finalist Julia Goerges 6-4 7-5 to set up a second round match against another former finalist, Alize Cornet, Zhang Shuai defeated 15th seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 6-3 and lucky loser Dalila Jakupovic will face fifth seed Angelique Kerber after overcoming qualifier Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-1 6-2.
Ninth seed, 2011 champion and Dubai Duty Free tennis ambassador Caroline Wozniacki was forced to withdraw as a viral illness that prevented her playing last week in Doha continues to linger. Despite feeling unwell, she still took time to give some delighted fans a tour around Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and Centre Court from a player’s perspective, showing them all the facilities available for players on-site.
“Ons Jabeur is very popular with tennis fans in Dubai as well as throughout the region and it is with great pleasure that we have watched her career go from strength to strength,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It will be very interesting to see how she will inspire a new generation and we offer her every encouragement. Meanwhile, we are disappointed that Caroline Wozniacki was unable to play and wish her a speedy recovery.”
“On Tuesday the very best players in the world begin their own bid for the title, and none will take their opposition lightly,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Tickets for Centre Court are only 55 Dhs, and matches that include former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza and recent St. Petersburg winner Kiki Bertens are free to watch on court 1.”
The WTA event continues until 23rd February and features nine of the world’s top 10, including world No. 1, Australian Open and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, 2019 Sydney champion and Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova, two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, 2019 Brisbane winner and Australian Open semi-finalist Karolina Pliskova, and Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber.
The sensational week of women’s tennis will be followed by an equally thrilling men’s event headed by seven-time champion Roger Federer, Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, defending champion and recent Doha winner Roberto Bautista Agut, former US Open winner Marin Cilic, Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori and two-time finalist Tomas Berdych.
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.