Salah Tahlak
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak Image Credit:

Dubai: Tournament Director Salah Tahlak is confident that yet another classic field — led by the legendary Roger Federer — will again prove the worth of the annual Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Federer, who skipped the Dubai event last year after winning his 20th Grand Slam at the Australian Open in Melbourne, has returned to try to win a record eighth title here. He is the only player in tennis history who has won more than six titles in seven different tournaments. Federer has nine titles at the Halle Open, nine titles at the Swiss Indoors, eight Wimbledon crowns and seven each at the Cincinnati Masters and Dubai Tennis Championships.

In addition, the 37-year-old Swiss also has six Australian Open titles and another six at the season-ending World Tour Finals making him stand on the cusp of a unique record while chasing his 100th career title, should he win in Dubai next Saturday.

“Federer is a true ambassador for Dubai and this tournament as he brings in the right vibes to our event,” Tahlak told Gulf News.

“Dubai is his second home. Since his first win here he has made this his tournament. He didn’t come here last year and we have to admit that the enthusiasm among the spectators dropped a bit, and we all know why this happened. But this year, he heads a field that will once again ensure a packed house,” he said.

This year’s men’s tournament has for the first time attracted Japan’s world No. 7 Kei Nishikori alongside the exciting and talented Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.

Federer is a true ambassador for Dubai and this tournament as he brings in the right vibes. Dubai is his second home. Since his first win here he has made this his tournament.

- Salah Tahlak, Tournament director

Federer’s love affair with Dubai began with a hat-trick of titles between 2003 to 2005 followed by another four crowns in 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He lost early in 2016 and 2017 and his scheduling didn’t allow him to travel here last year.

“One can feel the electric atmosphere as we get ready to start our second week of tennis with the men’s competition,” said Tahlak. “Roger brings good things for our tournament and we have done well with ticket sales for the second week.

“Roger spends a lot of time in Dubai and that has added to his appeal among the fans here. At times we get the feeling that spectators want to come for this tournament because of Federer. In the past people have said that his best years were behind him. But we know what Federer has gone on to do in the world of men’s tennis.”

As Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at Dubai Duty Free since September 2016, Tahlak has been tournament director of the Dubai event since 2003. At the end of 2018, he was once again voted as a Member of the ATP International Group Council making him the first and only Arab to be a member of both the ATP and the WTA Tournament Councils.

“Eight is the lucky number for the Chinese, and this is more relevant since we are celebrating the Chinese New Year. We hope Federer can go all the way to the final and win his 100th career title,” Tahlak hoped.