The curtain fell on the 30th Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday as Andrey Rublev stood proudly with the Dhow trophy amid fireworks and a packed stadium.
The Russian 27-year-old and — a week earlier — Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko became the latest stars to add their names to a roll of honour that includes some of the greatest men and women ever to hold a racket. over the past fortnight, they etched their place in history alongside the likes of — deep breath — Roger Federer, Martina Hingis, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Andy Murray, Justine Henin, Goran Ivanesevic, Lindsay Davenport, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova.
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The roll call in Dubai for the ATP 500 event is among the strongest in the history of tennis outside the big four Grand Slams, with stellar names such as Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, David Ferrer, Monica Seles, Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova also coming to town to compete over the decades, yet missing out on the title.
With the now fans back once again packing out the 5,000-strong Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and tentative plans in place to expand the capacity at the Garhoud venue, the competition look to be in the best of hands.
Only last week, world No. 1 Djokovic called the DDFTC the best tournament in the world outside the Grand Slams, Ostapenko said she cannot wait to come back to a city that offers so much and beaten men’s finalist Jiri Vesely — who has come through a year of turmoil, injury and illness — stated the tournament had allowed him to fall in love with the game again.
Following last year’s fan lockout due to Covid-19, a rapturous sold-out crowd made up for lost time over the past 14 days, backing their favourites at the glamorous Centre Court and also around the whole arena and its three other more intimate yet still world-class courts.
As the big four of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray — plus the Williams sisters and the likes of Kvitova and Azarenka — edge towards the end of their careers, there have been concerns over who will fill such a void in the game, but Dubai and its passionate fans has demonstrated that there is more than a feast of plenty to entertain the crowds for the next 30 years and beyond.