Dubai boasts its strongest line-up

Organisers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have hailed this year's confirmed line-up as the tournament's best yet.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 21:  The USA’s Venus Williams returns to France’s Virginie Razzano during their Women’s Final match on centre court at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship WTA Tour held at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in Dubai on February 21, 2009. Williams won the match 6-4, 6-2.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National)  For sports by Bill Johnson *** Local Caption ***  RS029-022109-DTC.jpgRS029-022109-DTC.jpg

DUBAI // Organisers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have hailed this year's confirmed line-up as the tournament's best yet. The world's top-10 women's players and at least seven of the world's top-10 men will take to the centre court at the Aviation Club between February 14 and 28 to fight for a share of a US$4million (Dh14.7m) prize purse.

Colm McLoughlin, managing director of Dubai Duty Free, said the line-up "is a remarkable and unprecedented achievement and indicates the importance of the tournament among the players themselves". He added: "This is made all the more special due to the fact we are celebrating a milestone year for the championships - the 18th anniversary of the men's Open and 10th anniversary of the women's." The line-up means reigning champions Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic will return to the emirate, as will American Andy Roddick, who withdrew from last year's tournament following Israeli women's tennis player Shahar Peer being denied entrance to the UAE.

World No 1 Roger Federer, who spends three months of the year training in Dubai and has won the annual tournament four times, said he believes it is time to move on from last year's controversy. "They put on a good event," said the 28-year-old, who missed the 2009 event through injury. "I hope this year I can help the tournament grow and become even more established. And also forget about the ups and downs that they've gone through."

Organisers are keen to move forward too, confirming that any player who qualifies to compete at this year's event will be eligible and assured access to the country. The governmental stance is in keeping with last year's late decision to grant men's player Andy Ram a "special entry permit" to compete, despite holding an Israeli passport. The WTA event next month will feature 64 singles players, consisting of 43 direct acceptances and a combination of qualifiers and wild-cards. Each of the top 43 players on the Tour will be granted automatic invitations. Peer is at present ranked 30th in the world, more than 350 points ahead of 44th-placed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

The WTA said last night that Peer, who is in New Zealand competing in the ASB Classic in Auckland, has confirmed her entry for Dubai and has every intention of taking part. "Shahar Peer is entered in the 2010 Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, and the Tour has received written confirmation from the UAE Ministry of Interior that she will be able to enter the UAE and participate in the event without incident," said a spokesman.

The New Zealand press association reported last night that a group of 10 protesters had been outside the Auckland Tennis Center protesting Peer's participation in this week's tournament.

Leading women taking part 1-Serena Williams, 2-Dinara Safina, 3-Svetlana Kuznetsova, 4-Caroline Wozniacki, 5-Elena Dementieva, 6-Venus Williams, 7-Victoria Azarenka, 8-Jelena Jankovic, 9-Vera Zvonareva, 10-Agnieszka Radwanska Leading men taking part 1-Roger Federer, 3-Novak Djokovic, 4-Andy Murray, 5-Juan Martin Del Potro, 6-Nikolay Davydenko, 7-Andy Roddick, 10-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga