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

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?

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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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