I’m writing this in the middle of a packed golfing schedule. The Desert Swing is in full, erm, swing, yet as much as I love golf, I can’t wait to have some world-class tennis back in Dubai. One of my favourite events is the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, running from Monday February 18 until Saturday March 2. As always, the ladies make up the first week, while the men play during the second. Nine of the world’s top 10 female players will be taking part, while the men are only really missing Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal.
Murray made the final last year, where he was beaten by Roger Federer. So why isn’t he coming back? It comes down to the fact that he wants to be world number one and needs to be playing a great US season, which follows directly after Dubai. Last year was great for the Scot, but his hard-court US season after Dubai was poor. He can’t afford a similar performance again, so he’ll concentrate on that.
As for Nadal, we’ve missed him on the circuit recently – he hasn’t played since the second round of Wimbledon last summer.
A persistent knee injury has been the problem and even if he’s fit come February, he’ll be heading straight to clay to practise for the French Open. Former British number one Tim Henman was telling me last weekend that Nadal’s aggression on the court could explain his body’s failings, at the age of just 25.
In terms of golf, 25 years old is getting on a bit – at least when you look at Rory McIlroy, who recently signed a deal with Nike that reportedly makes him the second highest-paid British sports star, behind David Beckham. Even though McIlroy wouldn’t disclose the figures (and insisted he doesn’t play golf for money any more), the deal is said to be worth US$250 million (Dhs918 million) over ten years. So if he plays an average of 21 events a season, and pars those events, that works out at just over Dhs14,000 a shot. (It takes me 20 shots to get through a par 5, so I’d be earning millions.) Yet Rory won’t be allowed to wear red on the final day again – apparently Tiger is the only Nike golfer allowed to do so.
And another thing…
A big shout out to those taking part in Dubai Marathon, 10k and 3k on Friday January 25. The Dubai event is one of the best marathons in world, thanks to its spectacular route round the Burj Khalifa. Of course, it’s the taking part that counts, although if this is your first marathon it’s worth remembering that the record for the fastest debut marathon was beaten at last year’s race. Good luck!