Exclusive: In UAE's 50th anniversary, Dubai tennis success makes us happy: Salah Tahlak Filed on March 20, 2021
Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. (Supplied photo)

The bio-bubble in the tournament has already earned praise from Garbine Muguruza and Denis Shapovalov

Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, could not have been happier with the success of the 2021 edition of the tournament despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bio-bubble in the tournament has already earned praise from Garbine Muguruza, the two-time Grand Slam winner from Spain who won her maiden Dubai title last week, and Denis Shapovalov, the rising star from Canada on the ATP Tour who reached the semifinals here this week.

With The UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan declaring 2021 as the Year of the 50th to celebrate the UAE’s remarkable progress since the country was formed in 1971, Tahlak said it was important for the organisers to deliver a world-class event in the landmark year.

“Absolutely, it’s the 29th year for the ATP tournament in Dubai (Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships) and the 50th anniversary for the nation. As a country we are now among the best in the world,” Tahlak told Khaleej Times during an interview.

“And for the success of the event, I would like to thank all of my colleagues at the Dubai Duty Free management as well as the staff and the committee formed for the tournament. Everybody, you know, every single one of them, worked really hard to make this tournament successful during the pandemic.”

Tahlak then saluted the country for its resilience amid a global health crisis that have allowed local organisers to host marque events like the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the WTA Abu Dhabi Open, Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, the UFC Fight Island (Abu Dhabi), the Dubai Desert Classic, the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“As an Emirati, I am very proud to say that we are the second country in the world to have already vaccinated 65 per cent of the population. So it tells you that everything is really under control and the cases in the UAE are reducing,” Tahlak said.

“And also, during the (Dubai tennis) tournament, we had lot of PCRs done. I think more than 2500 done until now. So everything is under control and everybody is following the Covid-19 protocols. We are all very strict and we are part of it. I am very proud of my team.

“Also this year, the women’s event (of Dubai tennis) has become a WTA 1000 event (previously it was a 500 event). So a lot of changes and a lot of good things have happened for the country.”

Having staged the 2021 Australian Open qualifying rounds here in January, the DDF tennis organisers were well prepared to host an event of this magnitude under challenging circumstances.

“You know, having the Australian Open qualifying rounds in Dubai really helped us. And the WTA 500 in Abu Dhabi was also a plus point,” he said.

“It was a great opportunity to see the best practices during those two events which gave us a lot of liberty to learn from them and implement them at our event.”

Finally, Tahlak said that it was an emotional moment for the organisers when Muguruza showered the Dubai tournament with praise during her victory speech last week.

“I felt very touched when she mentioned my name. These things happen and it comes from the heart. For her to have said it, you know, she is a two-time Grand Slam winner and she is a great player, it’s great,” Tahlak said before expressing his hope to stage next year’s event with fans back in the stands.


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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