Dubai tennis is one of the best tournaments in the world, says Djokovic

Djokovic, Murray get nostalgic on 30th anniversary of Dubai Duty Free Tennis

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match against Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. (AFP)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match against Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. (AFP)

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 9:41 PM

Last updated: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 9:59 PM

4,995 kilometres – the distance between Serbian capital Belgrade and Dubai. But on Monday night, Belgrade boy Novak Djokovic felt right at home in Dubai.

In his first event since the deportation from Australia over his coronavirus vaccination status, Djokovic was choked with emotion after receiving a rousing reception from the Dubai Centre Court.

Spurred on by the roars of ‘Novak, Novak’, the beleaguered world number one began his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships campaign with an emphatic straight sets win over Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti.

The Dubai tournament holds a special place in Djokovic’s heart, having won this ATP 500 series event five times with his last title coming in 2020.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner doffed his hat to the Dubai tournament on its 30th anniversary.

“It's definitely one of the best tournaments in the world, actually the best tournament in the world in category 500 that we have on ATP Tour,” Djokovic told reporters in the post-match press conference on Monday night.

“Many years in a row this tournament has been winning awards for a reason. You always have, you know, at least four, five, six top-10 players participating in the event every single year. The field is very strong.”

In 2011, Djokovic became only the second player after Roger Federer (2003, 2004, 2005) to win three back-to-back Dubai titles.

Djokovic’s trophy-haul of five is second only to Federer’s eight in Dubai.

“I've had some great matches against Roger here, who is the most successful player of this tournament,” he said.

“Probably the toughest year I had in terms of winning the tournament was 2010. I think I played four three-setters in a row. The final was played over two days because of the rain.

“I had some thrilling matches obviously. Can't pick one at the moment. I've been blessed to experience a lot of success in this tournament.”

Unlike Djokovic and Federer, Andy Murray has won the Dubai title only once (2017) and his next best performance was a runner-up finish in 2012 when he lost the final to the Swiss maestro in straight sets.

But it was his stunning three-set victory over Federer as a 20-year-old in the first round at the 2008 Dubai championships that catapulted Murray into the big league.

“Yeah, I just remember it being -- when the draw came out, I was ranked like 12 or 13 in the world at the time. I think he (Federer) was No. 1. It's pretty rare that you would ever get No. 1 player playing someone ranked 12 in the first round. It was obviously a brutal draw,” Murray recalled that famous 2008 match after winning his first round clash on Monday night.

“Obviously at the time for me, it was a huge win. I hadn't had loads of success over him at that stage. “But yeah, the tournament over the years, it's had some great winners. It's got a brilliant history. A lot of top players have played here over the years. Yeah, hope that continues.”

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