UAE-based Egyptian referee reveals what makes Dubai Duty Free Tennis so special

El Khafief was only 24 when he officiated in the first edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 1993



Veteran Egyptian tennis official Hany El Khafief. (Photo courtesy Regi Varghese, Dubai Duty Free)
Veteran Egyptian tennis official Hany El Khafief. (Photo courtesy Regi Varghese, Dubai Duty Free)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 7:43 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 8:01 PM

Hany El Khafief can never thank the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships enough for making him who he is today.

A former accountant who once worked for global giant KPMG, El Khafief left audit books for a tennis court in the late 1980s before becoming one of the longest-serving referees in Asia and Africa.

El Khafief was only 24 when the first edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was held in 1993.

For the next 30 years, this Egyptian expat has seen how the tournament grew into a multiple award-winning event on the tennis calendar.

“When the tournament started in 1993, I was among the first bunch of officials to work in it, as a line-umpire,” El Khafief told Khaleej Times.

“Those days I was mostly officiating in local tennis tournaments in UAE. Then this tournament started in 1993 and we got to see players that we had only seen on TV, Thomas Muster, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl.

El Khafief, who served as the chief of officials in the women’s event and as the tournament referee for the ATP week on the 30th anniversary of the championships, credits Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, for three decades of glorious success.

“The secret to the tournament’s amazing success is the teamwork of the Dubai Duty Free. Most of us have been around for so many years. We know each other so well and we know what needs to be done,” he said.

Hany El Khafief (left) with other tennis officials at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. (Facebook)
Hany El Khafief (left) with other tennis officials at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. (Facebook)

“I think we have all learned this from Mr Colm McLoughlin who never changes the winning cards.”

While the tournament takes place in February every year, the work starts as early as October.

“The work starts at least four months before the tournament begins. I start hiring umpires in the month of October. Clark Francis (founder of CF Tennis Academy) starts training the ball kids from December,” he said.

The veteran official then revealed how the tournament became a big draw for all the top players outside of the Grand Slams.

“When I go abroad for tournaments, players recognise me instantly because I work for the Dubai tournament. They greet you with so much affection because they love this tournament so much,” he said.

“They love this event because every detail is covered. Players travelling with families are even offered baby seats in courtesy cars from the airport to the hotel.

“In the practice courts, the players get everything they need. In other tournaments, they have to ask. But here in Dubai, they open the blue box and it’s heaven.”

El Khafief’s voice was choked with emotion when we asked him what the 30th anniversary of the tournament meant to him.

“The tournament completing 30 years, I am so proud. I am so happy. It’s my tournament. It’s like my own baby,” he said with a glint in the eye.

“The Dubai Tennis made me who I am. It has changed my life. I have officiated now in Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Canada and South Africa. So this tournament, I won’t leave for anything. I had good offers, but I refused them. I won’t leave Dubai Duty Free until I am fired!”


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