The Australian Open champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic will head the field at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships when play gets underway in less than two weeks from now. Not only have the pair claimed the first Grand Slam crown of the year, but they both reign as the world number one as they prepare to compete in one of the most star-filled events on the tennis calendar. Serena wrote another page in the history books as she held off a strong challenge from former champion Maria Sharapova to earn not only her sixth Australian Open title, but a 19th Grand Slam to take her into second place behind Steffi Graf for most titles earned in the Open era.
“Growing up I wasn’t the richest, but I had a rich family in spirit and support, and standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen,” she said before accepting her trophy. “I went on the courts with just a ball, a racquet and a hope. That’s all I had. So all you guys who want to do something or be something, just never give up. You never know what can happen or who you can inspire. I’m just so honored.” Williams will celebrate her 228th non-consecutive week as the world number one as she arrives in pursuit of her first Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title, after three times falling at the semi-final stage. The most dramatic of those battles came in 2009 when she was edged out by sister Venus in a final set tiebreak.
Djokovic also made yet another entry into the record books as he captured his fifth Australian Open title with an outstanding performance against Andy Murray, equaling the record of Roy Emerson who captured his titles between 1961 and 1967. Murray, who is also heading to Dubai, was himself appearing in his fourth Australian Open final. Although with eight titles Djokovic is now accustomed to winning Grand Slams, his latest Australian Open victory had special significance to him. “I think it has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband. It’s the first Grand Slam title I won as a father and a husband. Just feel very, very proud of it,” he said. “As my life progresses, there are circumstances, situations, events that define these beautiful moments. Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before. And right now everything has been going in such a positive direction in my life. I’m so grateful for that. So I try to live these moments with all my heart.”
While Serena will be seeking her first Dubai title, Djokovic will be bidding to win the trophy for the fifth time, second only to Roger Federer’s six crowns. “We are delighted and very proud of the fact the two best players in the world and the newly crowned Australian Open champions have both committed themselves to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “Both Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are in great demand by every tournament in the world, and it is a privilege that they have chosen to return once again to Dubai. They are assured of a very warm welcome by all of us.”
Djokovic and Williams head a field that guarantees Dubai tennis fans a daily feast of top-class entertainment. “Djokovic will be joined by our six-time champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych, who has contested the last two Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships finals as well as the semi-finals of the Australian Open this year,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak. “Serena Williams will face the formidable challenge not only of her defending champion sister Venus, but no less than seven members of the world’s top 10. With such strong competition, it is impossible to predict who will eventually hold the trophies aloft at the end of our two-week festival of tennis.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features four of the world’s top five and eight of the top 10, including French Open finalist Simona Halep and former Dubai winners Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.