Dubai Tennis Championships Tournament Director Salah Tahlak
Dubai Tennis Championships Tournament Director Salah Tahlak Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai will continue to lead where others follow, according to Dubai Tennis Championships Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.

Speaking to Gulf News, Tahlak — who became the first Emirati to hold such a prestigious position when he was appointed Tournament Director of the two-week championships — mentioned that the honour and vote of confidence in Dubai could not have come at a better time.

“The world has been struggling to bounce back from nearly one year of lockdown and sad times. But in Dubai and the UAE, we want to be the first to show the world that there is hope for the future. Getting to host the qualifiers of our season-opening Grand Slam for women is a prestigious vote of confidence to us,” Tahlak said. “We have proved in the past that Dubai is capable of leading in any sphere, and now hosting the qualifiers of the Australian Open more than proves this all over again.”

The Australian Open qualifying for women will take place at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Al Garhoud while the men’s qualifying will be held in neighbouring Doha, from January 10-13. The plan after that is that players from both events will then travel to Melbourne to carry out the mandatory two-week quarantine period prior to the start of the 2021 Australian Open.

Last week, the WTA and ATP announced a tentative playing calendar for the first seven weeks of the 2021 season. The ATP activities are scheduled to take off with the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open alongside a new single-year ATP 250 license on hard court in Antalya, Turkey.

The Australian Open men’s qualifying will take place for the first time outside of Melbourne from January 10-13, in Doha, and the allocated dates of January 15-31 will then allow for travel along with a 14-day quarantine period for all players and support staff to Melbourne.

The controlled environment quarantine period will enable players to prepare ahead of the inaugural 12-team ATP Cup in Melbourne from February 1-5, that will be played alongside the relocated Adelaide International and an additional ATP 250 tournament from January 31 to February 6, all held in Melbourne itself.

Confirmed details of weeks 8 to 13 will be announced separately, while all subsequent sections of the 2021 calendar, beginning with the spring clay-court season from week 14, remain unchanged at this time as all tournaments are planned to take place as originally scheduled.

“The Dubai Tennis Championships fall in Weeks 10 and 11 with our WTA and ATP tournaments respectively. The tennis authorities from the WTA and ATP have assured us that the season calendar from Week 8 onwards will be made known to us in due course of time,” Tahlak said. “Everyone’s focus right now is to get the ball rolling. These are tennis professionals and they have been denied access to play for a long time. Perhaps, there was not much of good coming out of 2020, and now we have such a huge positive for tennis, for Dubai and the UAE and for sport in general. I am sure this is one of many positives that are to follow in the future.”

As per the initial calendar, the two-week Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was scheduled to kick off with the WTA tournament on February 14 and conclude with the ATP men’s final on February 27.

In the women’s section, the WTA 250 tournaments scheduled for Auckland and Shenzhen will not be held in 2021 but have been pencilled in for a return on the WTA Tour calendar in 2022.

And for the first time, the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open will start the 2021 season at Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre from January 5-13 followed by the Australian Open qualifying rounds in Dubai from January 10-13.

“It’s now time to look ahead with hope. Let us put the challenging times behind us and confidently look ahead to a bright future. This is going to be yet another success story for Dubai and the UAE,” Tahlak said.

The Australian Open, like the other three Grand Slams, consists of 128 competitors of which 16 will enter into the main draw as qualifiers while another eight get wild cards in both the men’s and women’s competitions.