The inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open will get underway with a blockbuster first-round clash after former world No 1s Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova were drawn against each other.
At a ceremony at The Galleria in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the first-round draw produced several exciting encounters, and none more so than the match-up between two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza and two-time major finalist Pliskova.
Despite both players' many achievements, their current rankings – Muguruza is down at No 82 and required a wildcard to gain entry, while Pliskova is the world No 20 – meant they are outside the eight seeded places and always ran the risk of a dangerous opening-round opponent.
And so it proved as these two long-time stars of the WTA Tour prepare to clash for a 12th time. History certainly favours Pliskova, who has won nine of their previous 11 contests, including the last four. Their most recent match was in the 2021 WTA Finals group stage, which Pliskova won in three sets, although Muguruza bounced back to win the tournament.
Form would also make Pliskova favourite as the Czech arrives in Abu Dhabi following a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, while Spain's Muguruza has lost all four of her matches so far this season.
For the winner, the draw doesn't get any easier as Wimbledon champion, and recent Australian Open finalist, Elena Rybakina awaits in the second round. The Kazakh world No 10, seeded third, has received a bye.
Belinda Bencic attended Saturday's draw and the Swiss second seed is also among the top four players in the draw to receive byes into the second round. The Olympic champion will take on either Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk or Romania's Sorana Cirstea.
At the opposite end of the draw, Russian top seed Daria Kasatkina will face either Switzerland's Jil Teichmann or a qualifier when she gets her tournament underway. Meanwhile, Russian fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova, who reached the final at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open in 2021, will play either Elise Mertens of Belgium or Italy's Martina Trevisan.
Other exciting first-round matches include Latvian fifth seed, and 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko taking on American Danielle Collins, an Australian Open finalist in 2022.
The main draw for the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, a new addition to the WTA Tour calendar, begins on Monday, with qualifying continuing on Sunday. The 500-level tournament takes place at Zayed Sports City's International Tennis Centre.