British tennis legend Andy Murray has heaped praise on the ongoing evolution of Dubai and its Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which get underway this weekend with the women’s WTA 1000 event followed by the men’s ATP 500 tournament.
Running from February 19 to March 4, both competitions will take place at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. After accepting a second consecutive wildcard from tournament organisers, Murray – who reminded the tennis world of his enduring quality with an epic five-set comeback victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of last month’s Australian Open – bolsters a men’s field that features eight of the world’s top 20 players.
Following three days of gruelling practice sessions on the venue’s centre court, the Scot insists he is in good shape for another tilt at the Dubai title – a tournament he last won in 2017.
“Practice has been brilliant,” said Murray, a former World No.1 and three-time Grand Slam winner. “The court was pretty much brand-new when we started, so I got some really good sessions in. The team here have been unbelievably helpful. It’s been great preparation for these next two weeks – I’ve loved it.”
Fifteen years after his UAE debut, Murray was quick to highlight why the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships continue to feature so prominently on players’ annual schedules.
“Everything has been super easy and smooth,” said the two-time Wimbledon champion. “The facilities are fantastic, great gyms – they’ve even got a gym just for the players to use now, which is really nice. The tournament has changed a lot since the first time I was here. I mean, the whole city has changed, but the tournament has evolved. With the hotel here on-site now, it is brilliant for the players; it’s so easy and convenient – you spend no time in cars, or traffic, or anything. You’re right here.
“They always have brilliant food, great crowds, and lots of practice courts. I think the players have voted Dubai as one of the best ATP 500 events multiple times in the last 10 years or so, which says a lot. And each year the organisers keep improving it, so there’s really nothing to complain about.”
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Duty Free, said it is great to hear such positive feedback from a stalwart of the ATP Tour. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has been named ATP 500 Tournament of the Year 11 times since 2003, including across seven consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2014.
“We are pleased to have Andy here with us, arriving early and taking the time to settle in and make the most of our facilities,” McLoughlin said. “As much as we know this tournament is popular among the players, as its organisers we remain very ambitious, so it’s great to hear Andy – who has played on the ATP Tour now for almost 20 years – speaking so positively about the tournament evolution and acknowledging the hard work we are doing to constantly improve.
Indeed, amid a packed early season schedule, father-of-four Murray revealed his joy at being able to capitalise on a half-term school break: “The kids are off this week, so they were able to come over,” he said. “It’s been part-training and part-holiday. We went to the aquarium at The Atlantis, watched the fountains outside the Burj Khalifa, and went to Miracle Gardens, which was good. We may go to one of the waterparks, but the kids are just loving being on the beach and in the pool – they are more than happy with that. It’s been really good.”
Now 35, Murray, who made history at the 2016 Olympic Games when he became the only player to win back-to-back gold medals in tennis singles, also reserved some special praise for Scotland’s rugby union team, which leads the Six Nations after thrilling wins against England and Wales.
“Although I don’t follow rugby that closely, I’ve seen the results and winning against England is obviously huge for Scotland, then they won pretty comfortably against Wales. It seems like they’re probably the best Scotland team in quite a long time and they have a really good opportunity to win it,” he added.
Murray joins a stellar Dubai field that includes World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who is chasing a sixth Dubai title, last year’s champion Andrey Rublev, 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev, Olympic Gold medalist Alexander Zverev, and World No.8 Felix Auger-Aliassime, among others.
Tickets on sale
Tickets for the 31st edition of the Championships are on sale now at dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com, starting from Dh55. Tickets are also available at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Box Office between 9am and 9pm daily. Tournament organisers have urged fans to secure their seats through the official platform.
This month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will start with the 23rd staging of the WTA event, set to feature nine of the world’s top 10 and running from February 19 to 25. The 31st staging of the ATP Tour 500 tournament meanwhile runs from February 26 to March 4.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.