Ramesh Cidambi, Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Duty Free and Head of the Tournament Committee, revealed they had as many as 20 meetings to understand the pros and cons of the safety protocol. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Archive

Kolkata: The quality of tennis in the women’s week of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, being held behind closed doors as per the safety protocol, has provided the organisers enough reasons for cheer in these challenging times.

The singles final pitted Garbine Muguruza, a two-time slam winner and ninth seed against unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, and this according to Ramesh Cidambi, COO of Dubai Duty Free and Head of Tournament Organising Committee, is a ‘‘testament to the breadth of talent’’ in women’s tennis.

‘‘The level of competition this week has been very good and the fact that the finals were between a number nine seed in Muguruza and an unseeded player in Krejcikova is testament to the breadth of talent in womens tennis. The quality of the field is excellent amongst the top 100 players in the WTA and that leads to lots of upsets as we saw in Dubai last week. Also, the training and conditioning of the players has been impacted by the pandemic over the last 12 months and that also led to unexpected results,’’ Cidambi told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.


The Dubai Duty Free official drew on the positives of hosting the event without crowd - which had given the tournament its unique family feel over the years. ‘‘See, the word that best describes hosting the event without fans is surreal. It takes time to get used to the fact that there are no spectators when you are watching the match on TV or live from the stadium. I also think that for us as the organisers and owners of the tournament, it is fantastic that Dubai and Dubai Duty Free has been able to conduct the tournament in the middle of the pandemic and give the fans the opportunity to see some great tennis on the screen.

‘‘We are fortunate to live and work in a great city that puts the safety and security of its residents and visitors as the number one priority and that to safely conduct the tournament and broadcast it on television,’’ Cidambi felt.

While the organisers had been receiving pat on the back from both the players’ bodies, WTA and ATP as hosts, Cidami was candid in explaining that it was a battle against all odds to host this year’s tournament. ‘‘Organising this year’s events as the head of the committee was a bit more interesting than previous years due to the pandemic. There was firstly a lot of uncertainty about the WTA and ATP calendars due to the impact of Covid worldwide on tennis and our tournament dates got finalised only after the decision was made to move the Australian Open to February.

‘‘We also had excellent help from the WTA with respect to the protocols that they wished we follow for a safe conduct of the tournament and they also provided us with the protocols very early in the planning of the event. The committee understood the protocols well and met over 20 times before the start of the tournament. The committee has members from all the departments within Dubai Duty Free and included the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and the Irish Village,’’ he revealed.

‘‘As a team, it then required us to be flexible and be prepared for different scenarios for attendance until a week before the start of the event when the final decision was made to hold the event without spectators. In this respect, the teamwork within the committee was very good and the cooperation and support from the WTA and the local authorities in Dubai was great and that helped in the smooth organization of the event inspite of the difficulties caused by Covid. We are fortunate to have a great team within our company and that makes everyone’s job in the committee much easier,’’ Cidambi gave an insider’s view.

The venue quietly added a ‘first’ to their CV when they hosted the WTA Qualifiers for Australian Open in January, something which came up as a contingency plan after the grand slam authorities decided to host the qualifiers outside Melbourne. ‘‘It was an unprecedented decision by the Australian Open to have the qualifiers for men and women outside Australia, and both Dubai and Doha were able to step in quickly and conduct the event successfully in both cities. It is a credit to the organising team of Brandplus to conduct the tournament in short notice while observing all the Covid protocols, and it is an indication that Dubai is capable of take advantage of such opportunities in the future,’’ he signed off.