February 03, 2024

Day one of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open included the main draw for this year’s competition, with Grand Slam-winner Emma Raducanu handed a tie against Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova. Spectators were also treated to fantastic on-court action as Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Heather Watson produced a brilliant performance and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins cruised to victory.

The second edition of the WTA 500 tournament officially began at the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, where Grand Slam-winners Watson and Sofia Kenin went head-to-head in the headline game of the day.

American Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, claimed the first set 6-3, before Watson took control and dominated proceedings, eventually brushing her opponent aside comfortably to run out 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 winner.

Elsewhere in qualifying, Collins eased to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Despina Papamichail, with wins also for the likes of Ashlyn Krueger, Linda Fruhrvirtova, Cristina Bucșa and Mai Hontama.

Saudi star Yara Alhogbani, meanwhile, was beaten in straight sets by Sara Sorribes Tormo, the Spaniard easing to a 6-1, 6-0 win.

Backed by a large proportion of the crowd on the stadium’s main court, Alhogbani showed glimpses of her sporting prowess but ultimately fell short against her more experienced opponent.

Off court, the main draw for the competition took place this afternoon and with Raducanu set to face Bouzkova, there is the possibility of two highly anticipated second-round matches, which would pit the Brit against fan favourite Ons Jabeur and Naomi Osaka, who faces a qualifier, against Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the highest-ranked player in the tournament.

Japan’s Osaka, former World Number. 1, recently returned to the sport following the birth of her daughter and having competed at both the Brisbane International and Australian Open, the wild card entrant will now hope to progress in Abu Dhabi and set up a huge clash with World Number. 5 Rybakina.

Raducanu also enters as a wild card after recently returning following a spell of injuries. The 21-year-old kicked off the year by playing in the ASB Classic in Auckland, before participating in the Australian Open.

Xiyu Wang, a late wild card entrant, helped conduct the draw and finds herself facing sixth seed Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The tournament’s four top-seeded players – Rybakina, Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krejčíková – are awarded byes to the next stage of the competition.

Tournament Director, Nigel Gupta, said: “We are pleased the main draw for the competition has now taken place, which only adds to the sense of excitement and anticipation.

“This year’s event is blessed with a wonderful field featuring some of the world’s best players, many of whom will be confident of going all the way, and fans attending are guaranteed to see some brilliant matches.”

“The draw for this year’s Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open features a formidable lineup of talent poised to deliver a captivating tournament. Each match promises to showcase the grit, skill and athleticism that define women’s tennis at its very best”, said Umayma Abubakar, Executive Director of Executive Communications & Corporate Center at Mubadala.

“We extend a warm welcome to our returning players and introduce the next wave of talent to the Abu Dhabi stage. This year’s event will strengthen Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a premier destination for world-class tennis and as a place where fans can experience sporting excellence first-hand”.

Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, confirmed that organizing the WTA 500 event for the second time in a row reaffirms Abu Dhabi’s prowess in hosting major international events, and comes as a natural result of the confidence of international federations, institutions and sports bodies in the capital city. This makes the tournament one of the most prominent global events hosted by the capital throughout the year, in accordance with the highest professional and international standards.

Al Awani praised the “Road to the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open” community initiative, which was launched last September on the sidelines of the upcoming edition of the World Championship and aims to advance the sport of tennis in the UAE by developing local emerging male and female talents.While naturally much of the opening-day focus centred around the tennis action, there was plenty of entertainment away from the courts with musical performances from the likes of Melissa Jeffrey and DJ Akmaral, candle making classes and tea demonstrations, along with tennis-themed activations for all the family in the Fan Village.