The WTA in Dubai will kick off on Sunday 19 February, followed by the ATP 500 in the following week. There will be 18 of the top 20 WTA-ranked players, including world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.
The men’s tournament will instead be able to count on Novak Djokovic, fresh from his tenth triumph at Melbourne Park and protagonist of a terrific start to the season (the Serbian also won the ATP 250 in Adelaide). Rafael Nadal should also have been present, who was forced to withdraw due to the ileo-psoas injury sustained during the Happy Slam.
Obviously there will be no Roger Federer, eight times champion in Dubai, who retired in September last year. The Swiss did his best to treat himself to one last lap of the carousel, but the conditions of his right knee led him to say enough at 41.
In a long interview with the Khaleej Times, Colm McLoughlin – CEO of Dubai Duty Free – thanked Federer for having contributed to the growth of the tournament.
McLoughlin on King Roger
“We all come to a stage where we have to retire.
We are delighted that Roger Federer won our tournament. He was world number one for many years, one of the top three winners of the Grand Slam tournament in the world, and he has a residence in Dubai. Of course, even if he is not playing, he is always welcome to attend.
He has been a very courteous person. He has done many things we have asked him to do. He has been very important in the promotion of the Dubai Tennis Championships, not just by winning it alone. When he won his eighth tournament in Dubai, it also coincided with his 100th victory in his career.
You know he is the among few players to have won 100 or more titles. He has also won 20 Grand Slams. Yes, Roger Federer was a great ambassador for us, and we were always pleased that he came and played here. I didn’t come up with that idea, the idea was in fact of Sinead El Sibai (Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Dubai Duty Free).
We heard back from the ATP that it was the biggest promotion ever witnessed in the tennis world. And the media coverage that generated was valued more than a couple of billion US dollars around the world. They did confirm that it was the biggest promo ever.
Both people participated very willingly, both Roger Federer and Andre Agassi. And we are very happy we did it.”