Aryna Sabalenka, who visited some of the emirate’s most recognisable landmarks, says being in Dubai is always refreshing.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Packed with glitz, glamour and world-famous landmarks, Dubai’s subtle and alluring charms could leave anyone smitten.
India’s biggest tennis star, Sania Mirza, brought the curtains down on her glorious career here; Tunisian Malek Jaziri too chose Dubai to call it quits, and the city has been once again gaining attention with Aryna Sabalenka, Novak Djokovic, and Felix Auger-Aliassime expressing their love for the emirate.
Jaziri, who peaked at No. 42 in the rankings on January 7, 2019, was incredibly grateful to Dubai and the tournament’s organizers for allowing him to complete his career there.
The 39-year-old, a Pan Arab Games gold medallist, lost to Alejandro Fokina of Spain 6-2, 6-0 on Centre Court last week before saying goodbye to an appreciative crowd.
He had been granted a wildcard to play in this year’s tournament, an event he has appeared at 10 times and become a firm fan favourite by reaching the semi-finals in 2018.
The Tunisian star was determined to play his last professional match in front of his fans at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, and thanked Tournament Director Salah Tahlak for making it happen.
“Dubai is a special place for me and a place where I have a lot of good memories,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to finish my career here in Dubai. I played the majority of the world No.1s here, as well as the majority of the tournament’s No.1 seeds, and all of these flashbacks came back to me, and the memories will stay with me forever.”
Despite suffering a semi-final exit and losing a 20-match winning streak at the hands of Daniil Medvedev, the world No. 1 Djokovic is unsure of his future schedule, but he definitely knows one thing—he will return to Dubai in the future to add to his five titles here.
“Over the years, I have enjoyed playing in Dubai. I will keep returning since it’s unquestionably a place where I enjoy hanging out, practicing, and competing in front of a great crowd. Looking forward to the next challenge,” Djokovic said.
“Dubai is an incredible city that offers so much for a person to enjoy themselves, including great entertainment, top-class hotels, excellent restaurants, and excellent weather.
“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has been voted the best in 500 categories for several years in a row. Over the years, the tournament has been attracting so many of the best players,” the Serbian added, paying homage to the emirate and the event.
Australian Open winner Sabalenka took a guided tour of Dubai with the UAE’s first female Formula 3 driver, Amna Al Qubaisi.
She visited host of the emirate’s most recognisable landmarks, including the new Museum of the Future and the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa.
“Being in Dubai is always refreshing—the city has a lot to offer, from fantastic cars to great food,” said Sabalenka.
Sania, one of the greatest tennis players ever to emerge from India, ended her glorious 20-year-long career with a defeat in the first round two weeks ago.
The 36-year-old, who won six Grand Slam doubles titles and reached World No. 1 in doubles after joining the WTA Tour in 2004, has been living in Dubai for more than a decade now.
“A lot of my professional career and a lot of things in my life started here in Dubai. Eighteen years ago, in 2005, I had my first top-10 singles match here, and that changed my life in so many ways.
“I thank the organisers for supporting this side of the world with tennis because it’s really important that tennis not just grows, but also in parts where it has not before,” said the Indian trailblazer.
She recently launched a tennis academy in Dubai. It already operates in three locations and, in the future, will venture into two more neighbourhoods.
Auger-Aliassime, who made his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships debut last week, praised the facilities and said: “Everything has been in place for us to get ready, to train, to recover, and to get ready for the matches.
“It was fun to be in Dubai playing for the first time in this tournament,” said the Canadian, who has been a regular visitor to Dubai.
Alexei Popyrin and Roger Federer have something in common. They both started out in tennis as ball kids. Actually, they have two things in common. Both spend much of their time in Dubai, and Alexei would like to get the message out to the Swiss Master that if he's looking for someone to hit with then he's available. Anytime!
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