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Dubai still banks on Fed-ex factor

Tournament Director Salah Tahlak optimistic the Swiss will play this year

Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
Roger Federer had committed to play in Dubaitill 2017.
Gulf News

Dubai: Roger Federer, a seven-time champion in Dubai and an eternal crowd-favourite, could still be in action at the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this year.

The championships get under way with the women’s WTA tournament from February 19 while the men’s event is scheduled to start at the Dubai Tennis Stadium from February 26. While there is no official confirmation from the player, Tournament Director Salah Tahlak is hopeful that ‘Brand Federer’ is in a position to play in Dubai one more time.

Federer, who owns an apartment here, had committed to play in Dubai till 2017. The 36-year-old got this season off to a dream start while landing his 20th Grand Slam crown at last month’s Australian Open. Since then, rumours have been in abundance with fans speculating whether they will get one more opportunity of watching the master play here after Federer committed himself to play at the ongoing ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

“Fans will be fans. Sometimes we have to understand that these top players are also human. Just like any of us they can be tired, they can be sick or injured. That said, I am an eternal optimist. I am positive he [Federer] will come,” Tahlak told Gulf News on Wednesday.

After seven titles in more than a decade, Dubai and Federer have gone hand-in-hand over the years. Not only is the Swiss a popular figure here, but he too loves being in Dubai. “It is important for us to have him, and it is equally important for him as well so that he can target the number one spot in the world one more time,” Tahlak noted.

The Swiss legend can become the oldest-ever world No. 1 after a gap of more than five years with a run to the semi-finals in Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam tournament has 500 points on offer, and currently the Swiss is just 155 ATP ranking points behind top-ranked Rafael Nadal. But the Spaniard is not scheduled to play until the end of February in Acapulco, presenting Federer with an opportunity to become the oldest-ever world No.1.

“It is a critical decision to make for him personally as I am sure he [Federer] can see the possibility of being at the top of the world once again. The picture is clear for him. In Dubai he doesn’t have to defend any points either. He can make it to the semi-finals or more in Rotterdam and that will be a huge achievement,” Tahlak said.

“Federer and Dubai is a two-way street. He has always been important to us. Maybe our men’s line-up this doesn’t look too great on paper and there are many reasons for this. [Andy] Murray had confirmed he would be here to defend his title, but he can’t as he’s recuperating from surgery. Novak [Djokovic] too was 50 per cent confirmed, but he too is out. And then Dubai is in direct competition with Acapulco and Nadal has chosen to go there as always. So we really can’t help it,” Tahlak explained.

“Federer is the Rolls-Royce of tennis. He is like the Patek Philippe of watches. He picks and chooses his tournaments and we can only hope that Dubai will be among his choices this year. If he does come then the entire tournament benefits. We get more of everything. The return on investment is huge for us as single-handedly he brings so much along with him,” a candid Tahlak said.

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