The air went out of Dubai’s upcoming ATP-WTA fortnight of tennis on Sunday after confirmation that fans will not be allowed into the stadium.
The government ruling means a haunting, empty atmosphere for the return of eight-time champion Roger Federer, who will be back on a court after more than a year out of tennis due to a pair of knee procedures
The no-crowd diktat also applies to the opening WTA week in the emirate, whose COVID-19 rate began rising recently.
Women are due to play their event from March 7, with the men taking over a week later.
“We are putting all the precautions in place to ensure the safest of environments for everyone involved,” TD Salah Tahlak said on Sunday.
“Although tennis fans will not be able to be present at the tournament, the good news is that Dubai Sports Channel will carry each and every match played on Centre Court live from first ball to last.”
The event in the expatriate-laden emirate has long been a popular draw, with “local” Federer – he owns a flat here which he uses for training – a wildly popular fan favourite.
In recent years, completion of a five-star hotel located on the site of the Aviation Club has provided convenient housing for players, who merely have to walk a few dozen metres to reach practice courts.
That kind of arrangement will no doubt come in handy for the quarantine measure to be put in place.
The lockdown scenario will be laid on after recommendation of the emirate’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management.