This year’s Dubai Tennis
Championships followed the formbook with the World No. 1
men’s and women’s players, Roger Federer and Lindsay
Davenport, showing their class to lift the two singles
trophies, but there was plenty of drama and the
emergence of a number of new stars along the way.
Tennis Stadium was packed for almost every match, aided
by the presence of so many of the world’s top players,
including six of the top 10 ranked women’s players and
American legend Andre Agassi, who was playing in Dubai
for the first time.
two-week tournament began with the Dubai Duty Free Men’s
Open which saw Federer successfully defend the title he
won in both 2004 and 2003, beating Croatian Ivan
Ljubicic 6-1, 7-6, 6-3 in the final to make it three
Dubai wins in a row.
It was also
Federer’s 16th ATP championship final win in
a row and third of the year, underscoring the Swiss
superstar’s remarkable dominance of the modern day game
- former greats Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe only managed
12 straight title wins during their careers.
Women’s Open, honours went to American top seed
Davenport who eventually proved too strong for the
challenge of 20 year-old Jelena Jankovic winning 6-4,
3-6, 6-4 in the final. It was Davenport’s 46th
championship title and the 28 year-old promised to
return to Dubai to defend the title if she is still
playing next year.
"It was a
close match and it came down to a few points in the end.
I wanted to win this final so much," she said.
ranked 28th in the world, emerged as one of
the stars of the tournament. The Serbian is however no
stranger to Dubai, having won her first professional
title at the Sixth Habtoor Tennis Challenge in October
2003 while aged just 18. With many of the winners of the
Habtoor Tennis Challenge having gone on to become stars
of the women’s game, the omens bode well for Jankovic‘s
biggest crowd pleaser, however, was Indian sensation
Sania Mirza who won her first two games, including the
scalp of U.S Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, before
finally being knocked out in the quarterfinals by
recently became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour
event by winning the Hyderabad Open, was cheered on by
thousands of passionate Indian supporters, as well as
many ‘neutrals’ in all three of her games.
disappointment, however, for the Williams sisters with
Venus knocked out in the first round and Serena
withdrawing injured from her semi-final clash with
Jankovic, having lost the first set 6-0 and while losing
3-4 in the second. Serena later blamed the type of balls
used in the tournament for causing her to suffer a right
shoulder tendon strain.
I think it’s the balls,” she said. “The last time I
played with these same balls, I had the same problem
with my shoulder. My arm is hurting really badly. I did
not want to continue as I did not want to see this
injury leading to another problem.”
Dubai Tennis Championships starting with the men’s
competition for the first time, all eyes were on the
pick of the first round matches which pitted Britain’s
top two players, Tim Henman and Greg Rudeski, against
each other in what was billed ‘The Battle of Britain.’
accepted a late ‘Wild Card’ entry to the tournament, had
to fight back from one set down to eventually beat his
compatriot, before going on to book a place in the
quarter finals against Ljubicic by seeing off the
challenge of Igor Andreev from Russia in the second
favourite Andre Agassi was making his first appearance
in Dubai and ensured capacity crowds for each of his
games. The 34 year-old American may be nearing the end
of his playing career, but he showed that he still has
what it takes, sweeping aside Radek Stepanek, Feliciano
Lopez and Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets in his
first three matches to set up a mouth-watering
semi-final clash with Federer.
of the two biggest names in the men’s tournament
produced another capacity crowd at Centre Court, but the
match proved to be a fairly one-sided affair with
current Wimbledon and US Open champion Federer taking
just 51 minutes to breeze past the American 6-3, 6-1 in
an awesome display of power and perfection. It was
Agassi’s sixth successive defeat at the hands of Federer
since beating him in the final of the Miami Tennis
Masters Series in 2002.
other semi-final, Ljubicic produced 13 aces on his way
to powering past Spaniard Tommy Robredo in straight sets
to set up a repeat of the finals of the World Indoor
Championships in Rotterdam the week before and the Doha
Open earlier in the year.
both finals in Holland and Qatar against Ljubicic,
Federer started the match as clear favourite and took
the first set 6-1. However, sensing a possible
whitewash, the vocals crowd rallied behind Ljubicic who
battled back to take the second set on a tiebreak.
Federer then took a 2-0 lead in the final set before the
Croat broke back and held serve to take it to 2-2. It
was a spirited comeback by Ljubicic but Federer soon
broke again and went on to serve out the game 6-3 and
lift the Dubai trophy for the third year in succession.
Men’s Doubles, the unseeded Czech pairing of Radek
Stepanek and Martin Damm upset fourth seeds Fabrice
Santoro and Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-4 in the final to
pull-off a well-deserved victory, while the world No. 1
pairing of Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez
powered their way to a 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 win against Alicia
Molik and Svetlana Kuznetsova to pick up their 27th
Women’s Doubles title.
the action on the courts, the biggest names in world
tennis found time to enjoy the warmth, hospitality and
some of the attractions for which Dubai is rightly
Williams sisters were spotted
enjoying an afternoon on the beach, with Venus and
Serena taking a camel ride by the Burj Al Arab and
visiting a henna tattoo artist.
The two reportedly hate competing against each other, so
they rarely enter the same non-Grand Slam events, but
Venus apparently had so much fun at last year's
tournament that she convinced her younger sibling to
compete in Dubai this year.
Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played a match on the
helipad of the Burj Al Arab as part of a promotional
photo shoot, and Tim Henman took time out from his
schedule to visit The Palm. Federer, meanwhile, revealed
he might buy a holiday home in Dubai.
“I am considering buying property here,” the World No. 1
told journalists at a post-match conference. “I am
looking around to see whether I can choose a good place.
I feel very welcome here.”
However, the biggest
excitement came when rising Indian tennis sensation
Sania Mirza paid a visit to Dubai’s Indian High School.
Having just defeated reigning U.S Open champion Svetlana
Kuznetsova the night before, the 18 year-old was
welcomed by hundreds of star-struck students.
upon the tennis world by becoming the first Indian woman
to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, before falling
6-1 6-4 to eventual Australian Open champion Serena
Williams. Two weeks later Mirza made history again,
winning the final of the Hyderabad Open in front of
Congressional President Sonia Gandhi to become the first
Indian woman to win a WTA Tour event.
school visit, Mirza spoke to the students about the
sacrifices needed to succeed and offered plenty of
practical advice to the wide-eyed youngsters.
it is you do, whether it is studying, working, or
playing sport, you have to be focused and determined but
most of all the fun should be a part of everything it is
you do,” she said.
students also had the chance to ask their hero some
questions, with Mirza openly talking about her hobbies,
how she relaxes, what’s important to her, how she
balanced school and tennis, and how she started playing
were often given enthusiastic applause, with the biggest
response coming after her answer to what her motto is.
“It is nice to be important, but more important to be
nice,” she replied.