Meet the family that brought premier tennis events to UAE Filed on January 13, 2021
Bharat Godkhindi, Kay Godkhindi and Sagari Godkhindi. (Supplied photo)

Having played a key role in the success of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Godkhindi was confident of meeting the expectations of the Australian Open organisers

When Cameron Pearson, head of Major Events from Tennis Australia, rang up his old friend Bharat Godkhindi, to help organise the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open in the UAE, the Dubai-based Indian businessman rose to the challenge of delivering a successful tennis event amid a raging pandemic.

Due to the strict quarantine rules in Victoria, Australia, the organisers were forced to send the qualifying rounds abroad for the first time in history.

And it was the UAE the Australian Open organisers picked as the alternative venue.

“They started looking at opportunities to host the qualifiers abroad. Then Cameron Pearson, who has known us for a long time, rang up and asked us if it was possible to host the qualifiers in the UAE,” Godkhindi told Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

“Of course, I know Dubai very well because I have been involved with the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships since 1993. I made the calls, I obviously know Colm McLoughlin (Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free) very well, and the team. Then I spoke to Ramesh Cidambi, COO and Salah Tahlak (Executive Vice President - Corporate Services) and other people in the DDF Marketing team. They gave us the courts and the onsite hotel, and we ran the event,” said Godkhindi, moments after the final rounds of the Australian Open qualifiers finished in Dubai.

Having played a key role in the success of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Godkhindi was confident of meeting the expectations of the Australian Open organisers.

“My family has been involved in the tennis business for many years now, we also run a tennis tournament in Sofia, which is owned by the Dubai Duty Free. So we ran the Sofia event last November amid the Covid-19 situation with 30 per cent audience and we learnt a lot about organising tennis events in a bubble,” said Godkhindi who runs the Brandplus International Dubai with his daughters, Kay Godkhindi and Sagari Godkhindi.

Remarkably, Godkhindi also organised the WTA Abu Dhabi Open in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

“The Australian Open organisers wanted to do qualifiers for men and women in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But we had already booked the week for WTA event in Abu Dhabi. Hence, the men’s qualifiers were taken to Doha and women’s event was held in Dubai. I was the tournament director in Abu Dhabi and my two daughters, Kay and Sagari, were in charge in Dubai,” Godkhindi said.

Godkhindi admitted that without the support of his team, it would have been impossible to manage two premier events simultaneously in the UAE.

“It was not easy, but it was easy because of the teams I had. I had some fantastic teams. The people we put together were amazing. And of course, the WTA team that came from the US and Europe, they were amazing people,” he said.

“Same with the Australian Open, they sent a couple of people to help us and especially the people who were involved in the medical testing were absolutely amazing. They are professionals to the core, they knew what they were doing.

“I would say that because of the team work that we had in Abu Dhabi and Dubai we were able to do it. Nobody could have done it single-handedly. There were challenges, every day was an adventure, but we managed to get through it.”


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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