World tennis stars come to Dubai for the Duty Free championships
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is a highlight of the tennis season. Bringing the best players in the world to the region each year, it’s no surprise that these tickets are some of the most coveted on the sporting calendar. The tournament began in 1993 as the Dubai Men’s Open, when players such as Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras were top of the international tennis tree. It became a mixed tournament in 2001, and 22 years on, it still attracts the finest players. So if you’re lucky enough to have tickets to the tournament, which takes place Sunday February 15 to Saturday 28, or if you just want to soak up the atmosphere, here’s how to make the most of the two-week event.
Who to watch
While tennis still tends to favour the men in the game, any opportunity to see one of the Williams sisters play is a privilege. Last year, Venus made history at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships when she became the first unseeded player to win the women’s title – her third win in Dubai. This year she’s entering the tournament in fine form after reaching the quarter finals of the Australian Open.
Serena Williams Younger sister Serena, who is currently ranked world number one, is a power house player and despite a period of illness at the Australian Open, you can never rule Serena out of the running. A win in Dubai has eluded her so far, but this could be her year.
Andy Murray World number six, Andy Murray will be popular with British fans, especially since his 2013 Wimbledon win made him the first Brit to lift the coveted cup in 77 years. Andy appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in June 2014, and while he has had a number of notable previous victories in Dubai – especially when he beat Novak Djokovic – a final place is still on his to-do list.
Charismatic and emphatic, Djokovic is world number one and not only a champion player but also a great personality to watch. The 6' 2" Serbian has won the trophy in Dubai four times and has an ongoing heated rivalry with Swiss player Roger Federer. Visitors to the Championships may get to see the two go head to head yet again on the blue court.
Hot on the heels of his rival, Federer is ranked world number two, but he tops the chart in Dubai as he’s won five times, including last year when he defeated Tomás Berdych.
Ladies’ Day sees stylish women take part in a best-dressed competition. Sport your finest gear – sporty, casual or smart – and take part in the fashion parade for your chance to win a bundle of prizes. Also, at the start of every session, you can play Catch & Win. If you catch one of the ten tennis balls that are hit into the crowd, you’ll win a prize. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is unlike almost any other major tournament since players walk through the Tennis Village on their way to and from the stadium. So if you line the path there, you’ll see your favourites and sometimes even get an autograph or a sneaky selfie. Autograph sessions are also held each Monday in the afternoon. Check the Facebook page for details.
Where to eat and drink
Make a booking at these local restaurants that are just a short walk from the stadium.
St. Tropez For relaxed fine French food, make a reservation here. This attractive bistro serves up steaks, seafood and salads. Open daily 11am-1am. Century Village, www.centuryvillage.ae (04 286 9029).
Cu-ba Take a two-minute walk around the corner to Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and enjoy tapas with a view at this Latin-inspired venue. Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu-Fri noon-2am. Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, www.jumierah.com (04 230 8459).
SoHo Bar and Grill Meat-lovers can indulge their carnivorous nature with generous portions of steaks, ribs and burgers. This restaurant has an urban industrial décor and is a great spot for meeting friends after the match. Sun-Thu noon-midnight, Fri-Sat noon-1am. Century Village, www.sohogrill.ae/soho-dubai (04 286 8520).
Tickets for this event are always precious, and queues of dedicated tennis fans braced a cold night in Garhoud when they went on sale. At the time of going to press, grandstand tickets for men’s week and the final are sold out, but tickets are still available for the women’s games from Time Out Tickets. Entry to Courts 1, 2 and 3 is free though, so on the early days you can see some of the best in the world without paying a penny. From Dhs75. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud. February 15-28. www.timeouttickets.com.