Sports aces descended upon UAE in 2014 to showcase talents

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As the year came to a close, badminton added its own footprint on the sands of Dubai with $1million MetLife BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals held at the iconic Hamdan Sports Complex.

By Kt Sports Team

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Published: Mon 29 Dec 2014, 11:03 AM

Last updated: Fri 15 Sep 2023, 11:22 AM

Dubai – The past 12 months have seen an array of the best and biggest sports stars on the planet descend upon the UAE to showcase their talents once again.

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson were among the big names to contest the ninth Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship back in January.

But, they had to settle for joint second place in the national capital as Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal’s 14-under par 274 proved sufficient to prevail by one stroke.

McIlroy made a swift return to Emirati soil to contest the 25th Omega Dubai Desert Classic alongside another modern-day great in 14-time major winner Tiger Woods.

It was the defending champion Stephen Gallacher, of Scotland, though who retained the trophy, thereby becoming the first person to do so in a quarter of a century.

Arjun Atwal.

Photo by Mukesh Kamal/ Khaleej Times

Henrik Stenson joined Gallacher by doing the double in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship - one of three season-ending events on the men’s circuit staged in the emirate now alongside the Asian Tour (Dubai Open) and European Challenge Tour (Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final) equivalents.

The Asian Golf Tour’s returned to the shores of Dubai after almost 17 years was hugely successful with the Golf in Dubai rolling out red carpet treatment to the Tour members at The Els Club. Arjun Atwal ended his long title wait to lift the Dubai Open trophy as the Mena Golf Tour invitees left their own mark on the event with 11 out of 24 making the cut.

The another climactic finale, the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, England’s Charley Hull came away from the campaign with the ISPS Handa Order of Merit and Amy Boulden, of Wales, the Rookie of the Year accolade on the Ladies European Tour.

The Dubai Tour made its inaugural appearance in this emirate in February, when the USA’s Taylor Phinney claimed the much-coveted blue jersey as the general classification winner. Marcel Kittel, of Germany, impressively sped away to three sprint successes at the very same event.

Like Phinney’s prior coronation, an American also won the women’s event at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, although it wasn’t to be the Williams sister most were expecting to emerge victorious.

Venus Williams in DDF Championship.

Photo by Shihab/ Khaleej Times

With Serena’s run in the competition ended at the semifinal stages by Alize Cornet, elder sister Venus avenged that shock loss for her young sibling with a 6-3, 6-0 triumph in a one-sided final.

The men’s tournament was somewhat more predictable, with Swiss legend Roger Federer claiming a record sixth DDFTC crown courtesy of a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over two-time finalist Tomas Berdych.

The Indo-Pak Express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi were crowned the men’s doubles champions at the expense of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic (6-4, 6-3), while Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova just edged the women’s final against US duo Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-2, 5-7, 10-8.

The US$10m Dubai World Cup rounded off the action for March, with Godolphin taking the spoils in the big feature race after Brazilian jockey Silvestre De Sousa piloted African Story to be first past the post.

Cricket and local football then took centre stage in April. The early encounters in the Indian Premier League (IPL) were successfully staged across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah prior to an eventual return home after the general elections.

Al Ahli almost swept all before them in domestic football as the Red Knights came away with the Arabian Super Cup, the Arabian Gulf League and the Arabian Gulf Cup.

They were on course for an unprecedented quadruple at one stage, yet Al Ain ultimately prevented a clean sweep of the silverware.

Mohammed Ayed (3-green) of Al Shabab and Mirko Vucinic (9- red) of Al Jazira during their AGL tie.Photo by Dhes Handumon/ Khaleej Times

Dubai-based clubs Al Shabab and Al Nasr reached the semifinals and final of the GCC Champions League in May respectively, with the Blue Wave narrowly beating Oman’s Saham 2-1 to receive some regional recognition.

As the Arabian Gulf League took a break Al Jazira and Al Ain shared the top spot with 27 points while Shabab (26 points) and Al Wahda (25 points) are breathing down their neck. The league resumes in after the Asian Cup in Australia to be held from January 9.

The Netherlands’ Michael van Gerwen also proved his pedigree at the oche at the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters, where he overcame Peter Wright 11-7 to make it back-to-back titles for the clinical Dutchman.

The summer sojourn then set in as the searing temperatures called a halt to the outdoor sport here until August.

Even then, the action was invariably consigned indoors, with Don Showalter’s talented US teenagers sealing the FIBA U17 World Championship to deny an Isaac Humphries-inspired Australia.

The high profile and most popular cricketing event - Indian Premier League (IPL) made a very successful splash in the UAE with 13 games. The Australians then ran hoops around their Pakistani hosts in cricket circles in the ODI (3-0) and Twenty20 arena (1-0), but they came off decidedly second best in the five-day Test format (2-0) this winter.

Draws were obtained too by the home side here against New Zealand in Tests (1-1) and Twenty20s (1-1).

The UAE boys, gearing up for the 2015 cricket World Cup, defeated stronger rivals Afghanistan 3-1 in a four match ODI series in the UAE with skipper Khurram Khan earning a rare distinction of becoming the oldest cricketer to score an ODI hundred at 43 years and 162 days, eclipsing Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya’s record of scoring an ODI hundred, (against India in 2009) at the age of 39 years and 212 days.

Hamilton in Abu Dhabi

On the local cricket front, Danube raised the profile of domestic cricket by offering Dh225,000 for the only two-day cricket series in ‘whites’. A week later the Kerala Premier League also raised the prize money for their Twenty20 event to Dh250,000.

In rugby union, South Africa stormed to a fourth tournament win at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens at the Sevens Stadium in December.Meanwhile, over on an entirely different track altogether down at the Yas Marina circuit, British racer Lewis Hamilton won the F1 world drivers’ championship at the season-ending F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi GP ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

That setting provided a fitting finish to the year’s activities to boot on December 30, when European giants AC Milan and Real Madrid locked horns in the Dubai Football Challenge.

Dubai on badminton world map

Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei

As the year came to a close, badminton added its own footprint on the sands of Dubai with $1million MetLife BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals held at the iconic Hamdan Sports Complex.

Powerhouse China took home two titles – the men’s singles and the mixed doubles along with the runners-up spots in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events. Chinese Taipeh (women’s singles), South Korea (men’s doubles) and Japan (women’s doubles) won a gold each.After the world championships, the Superseries is the second most important event in the sport where only the top eight ranked players from the five categories in the year long 12-leg championships compete for a place in the year-end extravaganza. Dubai will play host to the event for another three years.

The second leg of Volvo Ocean Race ended in Abu Dhabi with Team Brunel of the Netherlands emerging victors ahead of capital’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, which finished third.

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