The Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge is always the highlight of the Habtoor Grand sports calendar and this year was no exception. Without doubt, it was the most successful Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in the 14 year-history of the tournament.
Not only did it feature the most impressive line-up yet; it attracted a record number of attendees; as well the highest ever number of hits on the Al Habtoor website. What’s more, the actual tennis was nothing short of spectacular.
This year the tournament included nine of the top 100 players in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) ranking, in addition to the 2009 winner – Regina Kulikova (RUS) and the 2008 runner-up – Urszula Radwańska (POL); as well as Noppawan Lertcheewakarn (Thai) and Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) – the two young players who were the World Junior Champions in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
What’s more, the tournament website (www.dubaitennis.com) attracted a record number of hits with 917,467 visitors and 45,614 pages being viewed.
It’s no wonder it attracted so much attention given the quality of the tennis played. The final for example, which saw Lertcheewakaran compete against Mladenovic, was the first ever in the history of the tournament that did not feature a seeded player.
Both women walked to the final, showing similarity in their playing. Lertcheewakaran ranked 185, while Mladenovic was placed 181.
In the four matches leading up to the final, both had been beaten by a player one place below them in ranking, one higher and two seeded players. They tied 1:1 in their head-to-head meeting in both matches, before it ended in final sets.
The only difference was in their status, Lertcheewakaran had won her four previous matches in straight sets with eight sets played in total, but Mladenovic had needed 11 sets, when three of her matches went to a whole stretch.
This showed in the second set of the match, after a long first set that Noppawan clinched 7/5, the French player achieved a comfortable 4/1 lead in the second set. However her game took a turn for the worst shortly afterwards and she lost five games in a row.
The final match was attended by a large crowd, which included many VIP guests. Khalaf Al Habtoor Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, Sultan Al Habtoor, President of Al Habtoor Motors, H.E. the General Consular of Thailand and the former World no.7 World Tennis Champion Mario Ancic of Croatia were all in attendance.
A total of 96 players participated. There were 40 ball boys and girls taking part, as well as 17 internationally certified officials from more than 10 countries.