Star-studded Dubai tennis tournament hopes to see Federer's century
The 27th edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships get under way on February 17
It's that time of the year again when some of the biggest stars in the world of tennis enthral fans with their exquisite shot-making and never-say-die spirit in Dubai.
When the 27th edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships get under way on February 17, fans will get a chance to admire the Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka, the first Asian player to achieve the WTA world number one ranking.
And the biggest attraction in the men's tournament will certainly be Roger Federer.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion returns to Dubai after having missed one of his favourite tournaments on the Tour last year.
While Federer's return brings a smile to the face of Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director, the event will also see nine of the world's top women's 10 players compete for supremacy.
And the men's event will see 10 of the world's top 20 stars in action.
"We are very excited. This year it's a Premier Five event, we have a much bigger draw - 64 players," Tahlak told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
"And to have nine out of top 10 women's players is amazing. We have our brand ambassadors within the top 10. Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki. It's great to have them back.
"And, of course, it's great to have Naomi back in Dubai. She's now the number one player in the world. She was here last year. Lot of people follow her in Dubai because she is Asian."
New world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan will be the biggest attraction in the women's event
Osaka's back-to-back Grand Slams triumphs at the US Open and the Australian Open catapulted her into stardom.
But the 21-year-old Osaka will be not be the only young sensation in Dubai.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 20-year-old Greek shot-maker who announced his arrival on the big stage with a stunning run to the Australian Open semifinal last month, will be vying for the title in Dubai.
"I think he is the next Roger. He is the future," said Tahlak.
"You know there will be a big gap when Roger, Rafa (Nadal), Novak (Djokovic), Andy (Murray), (Juan Martin) Del Potro retire. So tennis will need new stars like him."
But it's an old man that the majority of tennis fans will be backing on the Dubai Centre Court.
If the 37-year-old Federer wins his eight title in Dubai on March 2, it will be the 100th career title of his incredible career.
"For Roger, Dubai is important because his first official title came in Milan. It was a tournament owned by Dubai Duty Free. It has always been a great bond between Roger and Dubai," Tahlak said.
"So it's very important to have him back. I hope the draw next Saturday will help him because if he reaches the final and wins it, it will be the number eight title for him in Dubai and that will also be the 100th title of his career.
"It will be a magical moment. It will also be a great legacy that he will be leaving behind if he wins his 100th title in Dubai," said Tahlak who also hailed the Dubai Duty Free team for its tireless work behind the scenes in making the tournament a big success every year.
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