Belinda Bencic Australian Open 2018

Abu Dhabi Exhibition tennis confirm plans ‘to incorporate more women into future tournaments’

The owners of the Abu Dhabi Exhibition tennis have revealed that they are aiming to have more women players at future events as they target an “equal standing with the men.”

There is only one women’s match scheduled to be played at this year’s off-season event when World number ten Ons Jabeur faces Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic.

The tie would have seen 19-year-old US Open champion Emma Raducanu take on Swiss Sportswoman of the Year Bencic, but Raducanu contracted Covid-19 earlier this week which forced her to miss the event. As a result, Ons Jabeur comes in as the replacement.

The Abu Dhabi Exhibition originally started as a male-only tournament back in 2009, but women were allowed to compete in 2017.

Flash Entertainment own and organise the Abu Dhabi Exhibition and CEO John Lickrish told The National that they have been exploring ways to include more women at the event, but don’t want it to be a one-off.

Lickrish said “from the beginning we looked at it and thought, ‘how do we incorporate women into the tournament?’ There’s been some different proposals internally that we’ve looked at, also through bringing a female-only tournament as well.

“I’ve always thought it would be better to combine the two. First of all, it’s really what we’re doing with budgets that we have, we’ve decided, and through some of our partners, we can bring women in.

“I didn’t want to do it as a one-off, I didn’t want to do it as a kitschy thing. Unfortunately Covid-19 really interrupted our plans, we’re just kind of taking it easy this year.

“But we want to incorporate more women into the tournament and get it up to equal standing as the men. That is the direction that I want to take the tournament,” Lickrish outlined.

“I think it’s important. It would come up here and there, ‘oh let’s do this,’ and I said, ‘Look, I don’t want to do this once, you’ve got to make sure that we can do this every year.’ So it’s been very important that there has been consistency.

“We’re looking to broaden that and we’ll have more players in the 2022 tournament, that’s kind of the plan, to slowly integrate this tournament, because we think it’s important.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.