14 February 2017 – DUBAI, UAE: Caroline Wozniacki believes that she could be on track to reclaim the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title she won six years ago, despite next week facing a stellar field that features an intimidating seven of the world's top 10 when play commences on Sunday 19 February.
The former world number one endured a challenging time for much of the 2016 season as an ankle injury suffered during practice forced her to miss the entire European clay court season, including the French Open. Then she was hindered by an arm injury during the American hard court season, and by the time she reached the US Open her ranking had slumped to 74.
But the final Grand Slam of the year resulted in a dramatic turnaround in her fortunes as she advanced all the way to the semi-finals. Her inspiring run was halted only by eventual champion Angelique Kerber, and she went on to not only win Tokyo, beating world number four and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis, but also Hong Kong as she claimed the 25th title of her career.
"For many years we have been delighted that Caroline Wozniacki has served as a brand ambassador for Dubai Duty Free, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her back again," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "The previous six times that she has played at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships she has only once failed to reach the semi-finals. She defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 2011 final, and in three of the semi-finals she has played since she lost to the eventual champion.
"After recovering from her injuries and successfully coming through such a difficult period of her career she is once more back to her best, and it will be fascinating to see if she can re-capture her title."
Now back in the top 20, she has not quite reached the same level so far in 2017, with quarter-finals in Auckland and Sydney and a third round loss to Johanna Konta at the Australian Open. But her confidence remains high.
"I'm just trying to find my footing this year" she said. "I feel like I have been playing some good tennis, and I'm feeling confident and good about this year. I'm looking forward to the season. It's a better start than last year. I feel really good body-wise and mentally, which is huge for me. I played really well at the end of last year. Probably some of the best tennis I have ever played, so that was great."
Her physical well-being is the result of some changes she has made, both with her off-court work and her entourage.
"I guess I’m not a spring chicken anymore," said the 26-year old. "Sometimes less is more. But I have really focused on some main parts of my game and really worked hard and tried to prepare as best as I can. For the first time in a long time, (during) the whole off-season I didn’t have any problems. I changed my practice quite a bit, probably spent more time on court than I have in a long time and less time in the gym.
"That was a big change for me, because I have worked so hard on my fitness and trying to prevent injuries, but at the end of the day I think I sometimes need to ease off a little bit. And now I have a full-time physio with me all the time, which has really helped me. I get treatment every day, to keep on top of my body and help me recover. I think that's actually the main thing for me right now, to always do my best to make sure that my body is fit and healthy."
“Dubai has proved to be one of Caroline Wozniacki’s most successful venues in the past, and there is every indication that she will once again be a serious title contender. We look forward to welcoming her back as she takes on one of the toughest fields ever assembled for the Championships” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “There are so many players who are performing well both from inside and outside of the top 10 that the outcome is impossible to foretell. The only certainty is that there will be many thrilling matches throughout the week."
Among those challenging Wozniacki for the title will be world number two and current US Open champion Angelique Kerber, 2017 Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova, WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, world number six and former Dubai winner Agnieszka Radwanska, reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, three-time Dubai finalist and current Moscow champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2017 Sydney champion Johanna Konta.
Action gets underway first with the WTA event on 19 February, followed by the ATP World tour event from 27th February. The ATP line-up includes world number one Andy Murray; Australian Open champion and seven-time Dubai winner Roger Federer; Dubai defending champion, winner of three Grand Slams and world number three Stan Wawrinka; two time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and the entertaining world number nine Gael Monfils.
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.
Tickets for every day of the event including the finals are still available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are also available online through www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.