Love a spot of tennis? Well you’re in the right place. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships kicks off this week and some of the world’s top players are set to roll in to town. The tournament starts on Monday February 19 with the WTA Premier 700 women’s tournament. This finishes on Saturday February 24, while the ATP 500 men’s tournament runs from Monday February 26 until Saturday March 3. It’s a well-established and hugely popular event in Dubai – 2018 sees the 26th renewal of the ATP tournament and the 18th year of the WTA competition. The event also has a massive global audience with coverage across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas. Here’s what you need to know.
1 The women’s ones-to-watch
This year is set to be a cracker in the women’s division, with seven out of the world’s top ten players to compete in Dubai. Heading up the list will be world number two Simona Halep, who comes on a wild card after winning in 2015. She’ll face competition from world number three and current Dubai Duty Free title-holder Elina Svitolina, as well as from world number four, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. The latter won her first Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open, and followed it up by winning Wimbledon in 2017. Meanwhile, Svitolina is one of several former champions in the hunt for their second Dubai title, with Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska and Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova also in the line-up. Also in the mix will be 2016 Australian Open and US Open champion, Angelique Kerber.
2 The men’s ones-to-watch
The men’s tournament began back in 1993, and has attracted the finest players ever since. This year there are some decent names in the line-up, though there’s just one from the world top ten – that being none other than world number four and ATP Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov. He will be making his second appearance in Dubai having played here in 2011, and he’s looking a firm favourite for the 2018 title. The 26-year-old Bulgarian had a stellar season last year, but he’ll face stiff competition from some young guns including Lucas Pouille, Damir Dzumhur, Karen Khachanov and Evgeny Donskoy in the hunt for the prize pot.
3 The prize money up for grabs
There’s a whopping total prize fund of US$ 5.2million (Dhs19,099,600). And there’s also an equal amount of prize money for both men and women – with a purse of US$2.6 million (Dhs9,549,800) each for the WTA and ATP.
4 The Stadium you’ll be watching within
The 5,000-seat Dubai Tennis Stadium was officially inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in February 1996, and since has been renamed the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. Ahead of that the tennis took place on courts surrounded by makeshift stands. If you haven’t been here for the tennis, you may have been for a gig – Texas played last year, while Marti Pellow takes the stage in April.
5 No ticket? Don’t miss the Tennis Village
Head to the Tennis Village on the south side of the stadium to see all the action live on the big screens. There will also be a range of live entertainment, and it’s open to the general public for free. Result.
6 Star-spotting at The Irish Village
Winner of Time Out Dubai’s Pub of the Year 2017, no trip to Garhoud is complete without a visit to this Dubai establishment, and never more so than during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, when you’ll often spot stars of the game strolling through with their gear. Relax in the pub’s charming garden and soak up the atmosphere – and be sure to try the proper pub grub while you’re there (ahem, cheese and bacon toasties).
7 Brush up on past heroes for your bar chat
World-famous tennis star Roger Federer has won the tournament a record seven times, but it’s still in the balance as to whether he’ll head to this year’s competition as he was aiming to open in the ATP in Rotterdam (which started on Monday February 12). After winning a historic 20th Grand Slam title in January – taking the Australian Open in Melbourne – Federer is on the race to become world number one, and is hoping to knock Rafael Nadal off the number one spot. With Nadal not due to play until the ATP event in Acupulco at the end of February there’s a chance for the Swiss legend to overtake, as he only needs to reach the semis at Rotterdam to do so, being just 155 points behind. The 36-year-old Swiss player, who spends time training in Dubai, first won the Dubai tournament in March 2003, so if he’s not in the line-up it will be a disappointment to fans. The first-ever winner in 1993 was Czech player Karel Novacek, while other famous faces to hoist the trophy include three-time winner Novak Djokovic – who is currently out injured – and Rafael Nadal, who won in 2006. The women’s circuit was introduced in 2001 and was won by Martina Hingis. Justine Henin holds the crown for the most women’s titles, at four.
8 …And your reigning champions
If you’re a British tennis fan then you’ll no doubt already be crying into your cornflakes that current men’s title-holder Andy Murray is out injured, having recently had hip surgery (he aims to be back for Wimbledon, phew). Murray won his first Dubai title in 2017, beating Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2. Elina Svitolina also took her first Dubai title last year, defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2, and will be back on the court to defend it in 2018. The current mens’ doubles holders are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau and the womens’ are Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
9 There’s no need to drive down
If you have a car there’s park and ride, if not, why not go via Metro? The GGICO stop is a five-minute walk from the stadium, or there’s a free shuttle bus you can hop on.
10 Getting your tickets
If you haven’t already booked, what are you waiting for? Tickets can be bought from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Box Office, which is open from 9am to 9pm, as well as from 800tickets.com. Plus there’s first-come, first-served seating so you needn’t splash out. Prices range from Dhs55 on the opening days, to Dhs735 for men’s finals. As an added incentive, each day fans will be able to “Catch and Win” as ten tennis balls are hit into the crowd, with each one caught meaning a prize to be redeemed. Sounds ace to us.
From Dhs55. Mon, Feb 19-Sat, Mar 3. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Swiss player Roger Federer holds the title for the most Dubai championships won.
The number of seats at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis stadium in Garhoud.
The amount in dollars – US$5.2million – that is the total prize pot for the entire championships.
The number of years the tennis tournament has been running for in the city.