Scotland's Andy Murray won the title in 2017 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Former world No 1 and 2017 champion Andy Murray will make a welcome return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after accepting a wild card.

The two-time Wimbledon and Olympics winner, who was awarded an OBE in Queen Elizabeth’s New Year Honours List in December 2016 for services to tennis and charity and knighted in 2019 by Prince Charles, will be returning to Dubai for the first time since claiming the title five years ago.

“We are thrilled that Andy has chosen to compete once again at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he has always received a huge and enthusiastic welcome,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “He is still clearly a strong contender wherever he plays, as his recent success in Sydney has proven. We wish him well during his return to Dubai.”

Murray will never forget his Dubai debut in 2008, when he not only drew defending champion Roger Federer in the first round but defeated him in three dramatic sets. It was the first time that world NO. 1 Federer had lost a first-round match since 2004. Both that year and in 2009 Murray reached the quarter-finals, and after falling in the second round in 2010 he advanced all the way to the final upon his next visit in 2012, defeating Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals but with Federer this time winning his fifth Dubai title. A further quarter-final finish in 2015 was then followed by his 2017 final victory over Fernando Verdasco.

The Scot made his career breakthrough by defeating Djokovic at the 2012 US Open to become the first British Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade in 1977, and the first male champion since Fred Perry in 1936. That milestone event came just a month after he won the men’s singles gold medal against Roger Federer at the 2012 London Olympics.

Going from strength to strength

Murray continued to go from strength to strength and was rightly included in the group of four who dominated the men’s game for a number of years widely described as the ‘Golden Era’ of the game, along with Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

He successfully defended his title at the 2016 Rio Olympics to become the only man with two Olympic gold medals in singles, and rose to the No. 1 ranking in November that year to become the first British player to hold top spot since computerised rankings began in 1973. He added Wimbledon titles to his list of Grand Slam victories in both 2013 and 2016, and he also reached five Australian Open finals and a French Open final. He led Great Britain to Davis Cup victory in 2015, the country’s first victory in the competition since 1936, and he won the season-ending ATP Finals in 2016.

Remarkable competitive spirit

Much to his frustration he has, since then, struggled with various injuries which not only greatly reduced his playing schedule but seriously threatened his career. But, despite the challenges he has faced, Murray proved as recently as last month that he can still challenge for top honours as he reached the Sydney final.

“We are delighted to welcome Andy Murray to Dubai once again,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Despite the limitations that a succession of injuries have placed upon him, there is absolutely no question that his remarkable competitive spirit is as strong as ever and that he can still challenge the very best in the sport. Clearly, no one can write off his chance of success and it will be very interesting indeed to see him compete against such a strong field here.”