WTA Dubai draw: Iga Swiatek lands tricky draw as Aryna Sabalenka returns after Aus Open heroics

Shahida Jacobs
Aryna Sabalenka Australian Open celebrates
Aryna Sabalenka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the Australian Open

Iga Swiatek could face Elina Svitolina in the third round of the Dubai Tennis Championships and the draw doesn’t get much easier for the world No 1 should she get past the Ukrainian.

Just days after completing a hat-trick of Qatar Open titles, Swiatek will return to action as the top seed in the United Arab Emirates and she has a bye into the second round.

The world No 1 will face either former US Open champion Sloane Stephens or qualifier Clara Burel in the second round and if she comes through that clash she is projected to meet 15th seed Svitolina in the third round.

Two-time Dubai champion Svitolina, though, need to get past her compatriot Anhelina Kalinina in the first round.

If Swiatek advances to the quarter-final, she will likely face Australian Open runner-up Zheng Qinwen. The sixth-seeded Zheng faces either Nao Hibino or Magda Linette in the second round while she could meet 10th seed Daria Kasatkina in the third round.

Should the seedings hold then it will be a Swiatek-Coco Gauff semi-final. Third-seeded American Gauff, who was stunned in the second round in Qatar last week, takes on either Elise Mertens or Lesia Tsurenko in the first round while she is projected to meet 16th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round.

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Fifth seed Ons Jabeur is projected to reach the quarter-final, but the Tunisian has struggled for form this year and she will most likely have to get past the in-form Jelena Ostapenko in the third round.

The bottom half of the draw is headlined by world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka and the Australian Open champion faces either Xin Wang or Donna Vekic in the second round while she could meet 13th seed Veronika Kudermetova in the third round.

A Sabalenka-Marketa Vondrousova quarter-final is on the cards, but Wimbledon champion Vondrousova will need to get past either Mirra Andreeva or Peyton Stearns in the first round while 12th seed Luidmila Samsonova is also in her path.

The big drawcard is a potential Sabalenka-Elena Rybakina semi-final in what would be a rematch of the 2022 Australian Open final.

Rybakina, fresh from finishing runner-up to Swiatek in Doha, will be up against either Victoria Azarenka or Aranxta Rus in the second round while she is projected to meet eighth seed Maria Sakkari in the quarter-final.

Sakkari, though, is not in the best of form as she has lost three matches in a row. The Greek opens her account against either Katerina Siniakova or Emma Navarro while she could meet 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in the third round.