Exclusive: Ramesh Cidambi credits Dubai Duty Free's teamwork for tennis success

The tournament, owned and organised by the Dubai Duty Free, has won several awards over the years


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Ramesh Cidambi, the Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Duty Free, with Sinead El Sebai, Senior Vice President Marketing, Dubai Duty Free. — Supplied photo
Ramesh Cidambi, the Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Duty Free, with Sinead El Sebai, Senior Vice President Marketing, Dubai Duty Free. — Supplied photo

Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 12:54 AM

Three decades have passed in the blink of an eye for many tennis aficionados in Dubai. Since the Dubai Duty Free first brought world-class tennis to the desert with their inaugural edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 1993, the romantics of the sport have witnessed some absolute classics.

The tournament, owned and organised by the Dubai Duty Free, also holds a special place in the hearts of some of the greatest players that have ever lived.

During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Ramesh Cidambi, the Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Duty Free, reveals the secret behind the success of this amazing tournament.

Q. Can you tell our readers what it is like to organise an event as big as the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships every year? The effort that goes behind it from the whole team...

The tournament is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free. So we are in charge of every aspect of the tournament. Every single department in Dubai Duty Free is involved in the tournament in one form or the other. So we have an organising committee which meets periodically and it looks after the functioning of the tournament. Of course, we cannot do it without the help of civil defence, Dubai Police, Dubai Sports Council. There are multiple entities in addition to Dubai Duty Free. So really it's a joint effort by all of these entities and management. We have the support from the Dubai Sports Council and the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. So the result that you see is because of the effort of the Rulers and all entities.

Q. What's remarkable is that the Dubai Duty Free team runs this two-week long tournament, the preparations for which take several months, while also running the day-to-day Duty Free business at the airport...

Yes, in our case, this runs for two weeks, and while it is running for two weeks, we have to continue with our core business of Dubai Duty Free and running the retail at the airport. This year for example has been a fantastic year, you know, our business has exceeded 2019 pre-covid figures, in the first six weeks of this year. The passenger traffic has been great, we had a great year last year, and while the retail business is going on, we have to work in order to make this tournament happen and to make it successful. And the marketing department puts in a huge amount of effort, and we really start working on the (next) tournament soon after the event finishes. I think the reason that we are able to do it successfully is great amount of effort and dedication from the team.

Q. As the long-time COO of Dubai Duty Free, how does it feel to see the amazing success of this award-winning tournament? It has become one of the best tournaments outside of the Grand Slams...

It's a great feeling to be involved with something which has been running in Dubai for 31 years. More importantly, it has firmly established itself in the events calendar in Dubai. Everybody, from tourists to residents, knows that in February every year, we have the tennis. They associate this month with the tennis and it's a big part of their calendar. So I think the satisfaction for us really is that we have been successful in running a tournament for a long period of time and establishing it in the calendar for the residents and tourists in Dubai. And it's also a way for us to promote Dubai to the world and the promotion of Dubai was one of the key parts of the mission statement when the Dubai Duty Free was formed in 1983. And the mission statement said that we would help to promote Dubai airport and the emirate of Dubai. I am personally extremely happy that Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship has played a small part in the promotion of Dubai. People watch our tennis matches from all over the world, people wake up early in the morning and watch the tennis in some parts of the world. Every time that somebody sees these matches happening at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium it's another way of promoting Dubai and encouraging people to come to Dubai and spend some time here and spend some money here at our shops in the airport while leaving the country.

Q. And every year you bring the best players...

Yes, this event gives residents a fantastic opportunity to see great players. We have 17 of the top 20 women's players, we have eight of the top 20 men's players. I think all of that gives us satisfaction. We have managed to do something that has helped Dubai establish itself as the sporting capital of the Middle East.

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