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DUBAI: On the eve of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the top four female seeds met the media at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel to discuss their preparations for the tournament, reflect on their previous experiences in the emirate and share some of their off -court passions and pursuits.

Two of the four seeds in Dubai come from Spain with defending champion Garbine Muguruza at No. 4 and Paula Badosa at No. 3.

Muguruza, a former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, has been at the forefront of Spanish tennis on the women’s circuit for many years now.

The 28-year-old has reached major finals on all three surfaces, winning the French Open in 2016, Wimbledon in 2017 and being an Australian Open runner-up in 2020.

Currently ranked No. 6 in the world, Muguruza hailed the rise of compatriot Badosa, who hit a career-high No. 5 last Monday to become the fourth Spaniard to crack the top five in the rankings.

“I feel like it’s great. She is so talented. Now I think she’s put the puzzle together, really jumped from year to year. She always had that tennis in her, it just took her time,” Muguruza said on Sunday of Badosa, who is four years younger than her.

“It’s great to have her and see her. She is also a good competitor. I look forward to sharing more experiences with her, in front of her.

Muguruza and Badosa faced off in the semi-finals of the season-ending championships in Guadalajara last November, with the former ultimately clinching the title.

With former top 10 player Carla Suarez Navarro retiring from tennis last season, Muguruza is happy to have Spanish company at the top.

“Having someone on the tour also from the same country. I also miss Carla a lot now that she’s gone. Now Paula has come to the game. It’s always good,” added Muguruza.

“Spain is a tennis country. I feel like now it’s pretty equal, right? I think the men were dominating for a while and then the women. Now I feel like both (are on the same level).”

Like Mother like daughter

As his profile continues to grow thanks to his excellent results over the past year, Badosa’s off-pitch engagements have increased, as have his media appearances.

The 24-year-old Catalan was born in New York to Spanish parents who both worked as models in the fashion industry. Her boyfriend, Juan Betancourt is also a model/actor, which means that Badosa has plenty of people around her who can give her modeling advice during photoshoots for sponsors or magazine covers.

It turns out she doesn’t really need any advice, as Badosa revealed that she loves this part of her job and seems to come naturally to it.

“I have to be honest. Of course, my priority is tennis and I love playing tennis. But I like this stuff because I grew up with it,” she said.

“I’m doing it alone at the moment. I don’t need advice. But yeah, I like it too. Sometimes it’s a bit stressful because you don’t have time for everything. But I try to schedule my day pretty well. So for now it’s nice and I enjoy it.

“I did ‘Elle’ and ‘Vogue’ this year. Some Spanish magazines that are important. It was very exciting for me. We used to buy those kind of magazines at home for my mom and everything. Now I do the photo shoot for them. It’s incredible.”

Everybody loves Paula

If there’s one player who busts the myth that there’s no place for friendship in the WTA locker room, it’s Badosa.

The Spaniard is always one of the first names to pop up when a player is asked who he considers a friend on tour and it’s something she’s particularly proud of.

“It’s very nice to hear. For me it is the same. I really think like that. I mean, this month that I haven’t played, in the last 20 days, I’ve been in contact with a lot of players. It’s very nice to see,” Badosa said.

“I think now the players know how to separate things. You can compete on the field, but you can have a good relationship. After all, you spend a lot of hours seeing each other during the year, so I think it’s easier and the energy is better.

“A few years ago, of course, it was very different. I really don’t know why. Maybe they wanted to start the game in the locker room. That doesn’t make much sense to me. But I think fortunately that is changing.

Krejcikova does not lack motivation

When Barbora Krejcikova reached the final in Dubai last year, she was ranked 63rd in the world and was venturing into uncharted territory.

While already an accomplished doubles player with major titles under her belt alongside longtime partner Katerina Siniakova, Krejcikova had yet to prove herself in the same way on the singles court.

In Dubai however, the Czech rode through the draw to make the biggest final of her career and she rode that wave of success throughout the spring by winning her first Grand Slam singles crown at Roland Garros in June. .

Krejcikova returns to Dubai this week as the No. 2 seed and will open her campaign against French wildcard Caroline Garcia on Monday.

With several big items already crossed off her to-do list, Krejcikova, 26, was asked how she stays motivated week after week throughout the season.

“There are still a lot of tournaments I haven’t won yet,” Krejcikova replied.

“There are still a lot of players ahead of me at the moment. It’s just a lot of motivation. I see that other players are doing well, they are improving every day. I want to improve with them and I want to become better than them. That’s the biggest motivation. I’m not really lacking in motivation right now.

Sabalenka in search of solutions

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka took a well-deserved break after her trip to Australia last month when she struggled with her serve.

She spent time with her family, pressed the reset button and got back to work, retiring from competition in St Petersburg this week so she could start swinging in the Middle East refreshed and ready to go. .

Although the Belarusian isn’t sure she’s put her service issues behind her, she’s clear on what she hopes to achieve in this upcoming period.

“After the start of the season I would say that the goal is to find consistency in my game, just find the rhythm. I don’t know, right now every game for me is a battle. Hard to say,” said the 23-year-old.

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