Dubai is fast becoming the major tennis staging point for players hoping to compete in the COVID-delayed edition of the Australian tennis summer.
With the Tour turned on its head due to the continuing pandemic, the Gulf emirate will not only host displaced women’s qualifying rounds for February’s Australian Open but is also the departure point for a mandatory mid-January charter flight to Melbourne for the major.
The Emirates-run Aviation Club would normally host back-to-back WTA and ATP events in February; now, the plush facility is gearing up for the women’s tennis masses to contest qualies from January 7-10 without spectators present.
Men’s qualifying will be held in nearby Abu Dhabi.
Main draw players and 32 qualifiers must be in Melbourne by January 15-16 to begin a 14-day hotel-room lockdown prior to the start of the Slam.
Dubai officials expect to put all 10 courts at the tennis club to full use, staging up to 48 matches per day during the qualy competition.
The local Gulf News quoted an official as saying the emirate is prepared to run a safe event as well as offer training facilities for established players.
Roger Federer has been at his base in the city for some days and has been seen on the practice court.
“There are quite a few top tennis players who have chosen Dubai for their off-season preparations,” the official said.
“These players will join the qualifiers in special charter flights heading to Melbourne.”
“The world has never been in a situation like this before, so people have had to innovate and think out of the box to ensure that sporting life goes on as normal while maintaining all safety standards laid down by international agencies and local governments.
“Neither of these competitions — the WTA 500 tournament in Abu Dhabi or the Australian Open qualifiers in Dubai — will be open to spectators and public.”
Main photo:- Dubai Duty Free Tennis ©