IN PICS & VIDS: A history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis

Reem Abulleil 25/02/2017

With the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship all set to celebrate its 25th year, we pick out the best moments at the tournament since inception in 1993.

There have been plenty of big names down the years, memorable PR stunts and some quite incredible tennis on show.

Which is your favourite DDF Tennis moment and who do you think is Dubai’s greatest champion?

Have your say by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.


The inaugural edition of the tournament took place during the first week of February in 1993 and was won by Czech ex-world No8 Karel Novacek, seeded No3 in Dubai at the time and ranked 23 in the world. Novacek beat Austrian Thomas Muster in the semis and France’s Fabrice Santoro in the title decider.

The final was pushed to Monday due to rain and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, showed up for the trophy ceremony to crown the inaugural champion.

1993 - First edition of Dubai event.


After losing in the first round on his Dubai debut the year before, charismatic Croat Goran Ivanisevic claimed the fourth edition of the tournament. He took out inaugural champion Novacek and title holder Wayne Ferreira en route to the final before defeating the unseeded Albert Costa to claim the trophy.

It was Ivanisevic’s 10th consecutive match win, having taken the Zagreb title two weeks earlier. His streak ended the following week in the Antwerp final against Michael Stich.

1996 - Ivanisevic secures the trophy.


Austrian 1995 Roland Garros winner Thomas Muster took the Dubai crown, beating Jim Courier in the semi-finals and defending champion Ivanisevic in the final. It erased the memory from the previous year when Muster arrived to Dubai as the world No1 and lost in the first round to lucky loser Sandon Stolle.

1997 - Muster beats Ivanisevic


The WTA tour came to the Gulf region for the first time with back-to-back tournaments in Doha and Dubai. Martina Hingis swept both titles, beating Nathalie Tauziat in the Dubai final.

“I really enjoyed my time here for the first time being in the Arab states. It was tremendous, I tried not to get too blinded by the gold that is around here,” said Hingis in her victory speech. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the men’s title.

2001 - Hingis claims women's title.


Anna Kournikova’s sole appearance came in 2002. She faced Tunisian wildcard Selima Sfar in a three-set first round in front of a rowdy night session crowd before falling to top seed Venus Williams in the next round. Amelie Mauresmo won the title while Fabrice Santoro beat Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui in the men’s final.

2002 - Kournikova's only appearance.


Roger Federer’s first of a record seven Dubai titles came in 2003. The ‘Swiss Maestro’ did not drop a set en route to the title, which he sealed with victory over Czech No3 seed Jiri Novak. Other victims during the week included Moroccan Hicham Arazi and Federer’s current coach, Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia.


Federer’s title defence campaign started with a tight victory over Russian wild-card Marat Safin. He beat an inspired Feliciano Lopez in three sets in the final to become the first man to win back-to-back crowns in Dubai. Justine Henin also defended her women’s title that year.


Arguably the most iconic tennis stunt video was shot here in Dubai 12 years ago, when Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played tennis on a purpose-built court on the helipad of the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel in Jumeirah. Federer completed a hat-trick of Dubai titles that year, taking out Agassi in the semi-finals and Ljubicic in the final.


The Dubai crowd witnessed what was just the fourth instalment of the famous Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry in the final. Nadal ended Federer’s Dubai streak with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win. They’ve faced off 31 more times since then.


Making his second appearance in Dubai, and having won his first grand slam title just a month earlier at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic was the No3 seed at the Aviation Club and looking to take the city by storm. Having grown up in the mountains of Serbia playing tennis at a ski resort, Djokovic, a proficient skier, made sure he hit the slopes at Mall of the Emirates before the tournament kicked off.

2008 - Djokovic at ski dubai


A 20-year-old Andy Murray delivered an early shock in the tournament when he knocked out top seed Roger Federer 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. It was their third career encounter – the start of what blossomed into a close rivalry that currently stands at 25 meetings between the pair.

Murray slammed 10 aces that day and won 91 per cent of the points on his first serve. It remains to be Federer’s only first round loss in 12 appearances in the Emirates.

Murray went on to lose to Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the quarter-finals.


Andy Roddick retired from tennis knowing he had a 100 per cent record in Dubai.

The American former world No1 played the tournament once in his career and won the title, taking out Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic back-to-back before defeating Feliciano Lopez in a thrilling final.

Roddick did not drop his serve throughout the entire week and he faced zero break points in the final against Lopez, who had to leave the city as the runner-up for a second time.

“This is as well as I have ever played. With these great players, to finish a week like this is just great,” said Roddick after his memorable win.


Federer withdrew from the tournament with an illness and Murray was sent packing by Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic in the second round, which left the coast clear for Djokovic to defend his Dubai title.

The Serb ousted Ljubicic and Marcos Baghdatis before defeating Mikhail Youzhny in the final, for his second trophy in the Emirates. Venus Williams won the 10th edition of the WTA event.


This edition of the tournament witnessed some spectular duels. From Juan Martin del Potro’s third-set tiebreak win over Baghdatis in the first round, to Tomas Berdych’s three-set win over Roger Federer in the semis, it truly was a week to remember in Dubai.

One particularly unforgettable moment was when Dubai resident Diego Maradona took to the court to hit with Del Potro after the Argentine’s second round win over Somdev Devvarman. Who knew the football icon had skills with the racquet too?


With a serving masterclass from Roger Federer, the Swiss claimed his record seventh Dubai trophy with a 6-3, 7-5 triumph over Djokovic. Federer saved all seven break points he faced during the match and fired 12 aces.

“Today (his serving) was exceptional. I thought at least I’m going to get one good look at the rally or something like that, but he did a very good job,” said Djokovic.


Before losing the final to Federer, Djokovic entertained the guests at the Players’ Party with what has now become an annual tradition of belly-dancing with Martina the belly-dancer. The two should definitely take this show on the road.


Making his tournament debut, Stan Wawrinka won the title in Dubai with a straight-sets win over a resurgent Baghdatis. The Swiss reached the final after Nick Kyrgios retired injured in the second set in the semi-final. Wawrinka’s success in the final was his ninth consecutive victory in an ATP final.

“I was talking to Marcos last night – he’s a great friend – and I told him that every time he steps on the court he has a lot of fans. I really enjoyed the atmosphere tonight,” said Wawrinka after his win.

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Tomas Berdych: It's unusual being ranked so low in Dubai

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Two-time Dubai runner-up Tomas Berdych admits it is “unusual” to see the number 14 typed next to his name in the world rankings but he’s not reading too much into it as he prepares for his 11th campaign at the Aviation Club.

The draw for the 25th anniversary edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was revealed on Saturday, with top seed Andy Murray getting Tunisian world No47 Malek Jaziri in the opening round.

The Scottish world No1 was drawn in the same half as record seven-time champion Roger Federer, the No3 seed, while second-seeded title holder Stan Wawrinka shares the bottom half of the draw with fourth-seeded Gael Monfils.

Federer’s first match since he captured a record-extending 18th grand slam title at the Australian Open last month will be against Frenchman Benoit Paire in the opening round in Dubai, and he could face his preseason practice partner, the seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille in the quarter-finals.

World No3 Wawrinka commences his title defence journey against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur, with fifth-seeded Berdych a possible last-eight opponent.

Monfils opens against Egyptian wildcard Mohamed Safwat and could get sixth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters.

Berdych, who is at his lowest ranking since May 2010, lost two finals in Dubai: in 2013 to Novak Djokovic and in 2014 to Roger Federer.

“It’s one of the conditions that I like, fast courts, it’s usually sunny and bright, so the ball is also flying quite a lot, so these are conditions that I like and I think they’re going to be here again, it’s just a few unusual days (of rain), so it’s going to be all good,” Berdych told Sport360 on Saturday.

The luck of the draw pit Berdych against Federer as early as the third round at the Australian Open last month and the Czech admits getting knocked out early at a tournament where he had reached the quarter-finals or better on his previous six visits was not ideal.

“The early loss in Australia, unfortunately playing Roger that early, it’s a bit of missing a good portion of some points from the slam. But that’s how it is. The season is long, I just need to keep going, just working on my game and it’s going to be all fine,” said the 31-year-old.

Is it weird having 14 typed next to his name after spending all those years inside the top-10?

“Yes absolutely it is, but it’s just how the system is. I missed the US Open and then I didn’t really play the level that I would like to. So let’s count everything the whole year, and see how it is. The guys around are doing pretty well. Yes, it’s unusual, but I just need to keep working hard again,” replied Berdych, who was hampered by appendicitis end of last season.

One player who is set to make his Dubai debut is Great Britain’s Dan Evans, who is enjoying a career-high ranking of No44 after reaching the final in Sydney to start the year and making the Australian Open fourth round.

Evans was drawn to face Germany’s Dustin Brown in the first round, with a potential last-16 showdown with Monfils.

The 26-year-old from Birmingham was ranked as low as 754 less than two years ago. He was perceived as a “wasted talent” by British press and accused of not working hard enough (he would say so himself).

“I think that’s what they used to say, I’d say now it’s not so much,” he told reporters in Dubai on Saturday.

“I’m maturing, you get an older and obviously find out that sooner or later you have stuff to pay for and you’ve got to win some matches otherwise it’s hard work. I’ve been enjoying it and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing now.

“It’s very up and down, but there’s other things in life than just tennis and obviously you had to explore them and see what they were like. They were not so good, tennis was a better option and it’s good to work hard and the rewards are good as I’m finding out now.”

Projected quarter-finals by seed

Top half:

Andy Murray (GBR x1) v Gilles Muller (LUX x8)

Roger Federer (SUI x3) v Lucas Pouille (FRA x7)

Bottom half:

Stan Wawrinka (SUI x2) v Tomas Berdych (CZE x5)

Gael Monfils (FRA x4) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x6)

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#360stats: Dubai Duty Free Tennis in numbers

Shyam Sundar 25/02/2017
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The scene is set for the 25th edition of the historic ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships as the top players in the world get set to battle it out on the Hard Courts at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre.

One of the most popular events at the ATP World Tour 500 level, tennis in desert is destined to enthrall all tennis fanatics across the globe with a strong field.

To whet the appetite, Sport360 breaks down the facts, figures and stats from the tournament’s rich history.


1993 – The first edition of the Dubai Tennis Championships was played at the Aviation Club in 1993 as an ATP 250 event. Czech Karel Novacek was the winner of the inaugural edition, defeating Frenchman Fabrice Santoro in the final.

1996 – The event was played at the newly erected Dubai Tennis Stadium, which can accommodate 5,000 spectators.

2001 – ATP upgraded the tournament from a 250 level to a more reputable 500 level event.

11 – Times in 12 years the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has been voted as the best ATP World Tour 500 Tournament (2003-06, 2008-14). Dubai also won the award in 1998 (when the event was an ATP 250 level).


7 – Federer is the all-time leader with 7 titles at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre (2003-05, 2007, 2012, 2014-15). Djokovic, who has won the event on 4 occasions (2009-11, 2013), follows him. Roger and Novak are the only players to have won multiple titles in Dubai.

7 – Federer’s 7 titles in Dubai is second only to Nadal’s 9 titles in Barcelona; the record for the Most Titles at a Single ATP 500 event.

3 – Consecutive titles for Federer (2003-05) & Djokovic (2009-11) at the DTC; the record for consecutive titles in Dubai.

9 – Federer has played in a record 9 finals in Dubai (2003-07, 11-12, 14-15); the most finals in Dubai. This is also the record for the Most Finals at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Nadal (Barcelona)). Djokovic has reached 5 finals in Dubai (2009-11, 13, 15).

5 – Federer featured in 5 straight finals from 2003 to 2007; the record for consecutive finals in Dubai.

10 – Semi-Final Appearances for Federer (2003-07, 11-15); the most SFs at the DTC. Roger owns a 9-1 record in SF (only loss to Berdych – 2013).

8 – Djokovic has featured in 8 straight SFs at the DTC (2008-15); the record for SF streak at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Nadal (Barcelona)).

10 – Djokovic has featured in 10 straight QFs at the DTC (2007-16); the record for QF streak at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Connors (Memphis) & Roddick (Memphis)).

47 – Federer’s won 47 matches at Dubai (most wins at DTC), which is behind Nadal’s record of 48 matches won in Barcelona – The record for the most match-wins at a Single ATP 500 event.

52 – Federer’s played 52 matches at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre; the record for most matches played at a Single ATP 500 event.

23 – Federer dropped just 23 games (in 5 matches) enroute to his victory in 2015 (7th Title); the record for the least games dropped enroute to winning the title in Dubai.


Oldest Winner – In 2015, Federer (33y 6m) became the oldest winner at the DTC when he defeated Djokovic in a pulsating final. In fact, the Swiss duo of Federer (2012, 14-15) & Wawrinka (2016) are also the only 30+ winners of the event.

Youngest Winner – In 2006, Rafael Nadal (19y 8m) became the youngest winner at the DTC when he defeated his great rival Federer in the final. Nadal is the only sub 20 winner of the event. Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero (21y) is the 2nd youngest winner of the event (2001 d. Marat Safin).

15 – Appearances for Russian Mikhail Youzhny in Dubai (2002-16), the all-time record for most appearances in Dubai. The Russian owns a 21-14 record including 2 Runner-up finishes (2007 l. to Federer & 2010 l. to Djokovic).

90.38% – Federer owns the best winning record at Dubai with a 90.38% winning record (47-5 Win-Loss). Roger is followed by Novak who owns an 85.71% winning record (36-6 Win-Loss).

19 – Federer managed to win 19 consecutive matches from 2003 to 2006, the best winning streak at the DTC. His run was ended by Nadal in the 2006 final. Djokovic won 18 matches from 2009 to 2012, before losing to Andy Murray in the 2012 SF.

3 – Only three players other Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic have won the event since Federer’s first title back in 2003 (d. Jiri Novak) – Rafael Nadal (2006), Andy Roddick (2008) & Stan Wawrinka (2016). Wawrinka’s win in 2016 ended a 7-year stranglehold on the Dubai title by Roger & Novak.

Younes El Aynaoui – is the only player from an Arab Country (Morocco) to make the final of the DTC (losing to Santoro in 2002).

33 – The 2010 final was the longest final played at the DTC, featuring 33 games. Djokovic got the better of Youzhny in the final – 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.

12 – The 2001 final was the shortest final in the tournament history, featuring only 12 games. Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero got the better of Russian Marat Safin in the final – 6-2, 3-1 RET. Safin was forced to retire due a back injury.

3 – World No.1 Murray is currently on a 3-ATP 500 title streak (winning in London, Beijing, Vienna (all in 2016)). He is on a 14-match win streak at ATP 500 level (last loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili at 2015 Washington).

4 – Federer is currently on a 4-ATP 500 title streak (on HARD) – winning in Dubai & Basel (2014- 15). This includes a 20-match win streak at ATP 500 level (on HARD) – last loss to Del Potro at 2013 Basel.

Dubai Title = Major Title/Final – Since 2003, the winner of the Dubai Tennis Championships has managed to win a major title or reach a major final in that season (except 2008 – Roddick and 2009 – Djokovic).

Money-Makers in the Desert – Roger’s the leader with close to $2.64 Million accumulated in prize money at the DTC. Novak has won close to $2.17 Million in prize money at the DTC.

$2.4 Million – The total prize money purse for the event with $523,330 on offer for the 2017 Winner..

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