DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the UAE sporting calendar and one of the most popular tournaments on the ATP and WTA World Tours, and in 2018 the event again delivered a fortnight of captivating action and entertainment both on and off court. There were thrilling matches and exciting upsets during both weeks, which saw Elina Svitolina successfully defend her title and Roberto Bautista Agut being crowned as the new men’s champion.
The tournament offered something for everyone, from world-class action on court, to the excitement of the thousands of children who participated in the off-court activities and the enjoyment of those soaking up the atmosphere and entertainment in the Tennis Village, the event again attracted great crowds, with almost 90,000 spectators attending over the two weeks.
The WTA tournament, which this year had Premier 700 status, boasted a world-class line-up which featured six of the world’s top 10 and three former world number ones including Wimbledon champion and 2016 French Open winner Garbine Muguruza, 2016 US Open and Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova. Also in the line-up were defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Johanna Konta.
After a thrilling week of epic matches, Elina Svitolina became only the third woman in the history of the tournament to retain her title, joining Justine Henin and Venus Williams, after she won a hard-fought battle with 20 year old future star Daria Kasatkina in the final, 6-4 6-0.
The WTA doubles title went to the unseeded pair of Hao-Ching Chan and Zhaoxuan Yang, who defeated 4th seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng 4-6 6-2 10-6.
The ATP tournament ATP World Tour 500 event included an exciting mix of the next generation of stars and some of the more experienced players on tour. The line-up featured world number four Grigor Dimitrov, recent Montpellier winner Lucas Pouille; powerful young guns Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov, as well as seasoned Dubai challengers Roberto Bautista Agut, and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Tunisian Malek Jaziri was given a wild card and made the most of the opportunity, defeating top seed Grigor Dimitrov in the first round in the upset of the tournament. Jaziri went on to become the first Arab player to make the semi-finals since 2010, much to the delight of the vocal crowd who swarmed to the stadium to support their local hero.
After a week of outstanding matches a new champion was crowned when third seed Roberto Bautista Agut triumphed over second seeded Lucas Pouille 6-3 6-4. Bautista Agut is the fourth Spaniard to win the tournament after Alex Corretja, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Rafael Nadal.
The doubles final saw the second successful defense of a title in 2018, when number two seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau defeated the unseeded pair of Jamie Cerretani and two-time former champion Leander Paes 6-2 7-6 (2). Rojer and Tecau are the first team to retain the ATP doubles title in the tournament’s 26 year history.
The weekends were particularly lively with roving entertainers performing for the crowd who kept up with all the action watching the big screens in the village. The sponsor’s displays and activities attracted the attention of the fans, who also lined the walkways to catch a glimpse of their favourite players as they walked to and from Centre Court, with some lucky fans also getting an autograph or selfie with the stars.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships again delivered an exceptional fortnight of superb action and entertainment, maintaining its status as one of the most popular annual events in Dubai.