MANILA – Former World No. 1 greats Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain will make their return to the United Arab Emirates next month as headliners of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (DDFTC).
The DDFTC is a joint event from February 19 to March 4 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, with the 23rd WTA tournament happening from February 19 to 25, to be followed by the 31st edition of the ATP tilt from February 27 to March 4.
“It’s always exciting to be back in Dubai. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is a special event for me. I have a long history with the Championship and have been fortunate to play some great matches in front of the crowd at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. I can’t wait to play there again,” 21-time grand slam winner Djokovic said in a statement.
The 35-year-old World No. 5 has conquered DDFTC five times, which is three title triumphs away from the record eight championships of former World No. 1 and retired 20-time slam winner Roger Federer of Switzerland.
World No. 2 Nadal, 36, who has won 22 grand slams titles, is making his much-awaited DDFTC comeback since 2008.
In 2006, he defeated then World No. 1 and top seed Federer in three sets to claim the Dubai title, marking his first ATP final win over the Swiss Maestro.
“As one of the most instantly recognizable personalities in global sport, and one of the most decorated players to ever grace the game, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Rafa back to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after 15 years. The last time Rafa played in Dubai, he had won three grand slams. He returns having amassed more grand slam titles than any other male player in history,” said Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin.
On the WTA side, World No. 2 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 28, said she is “very much looking forward” to playing at the DDFTC for an eighth consecutive appearance.
“As an Arab, it’s always a special experience playing in the emirate and the fans make me feel very well supported. I have had some great weeks there in previous years without leaving with the title, so this year I hope to finally get my hands on some silverware,” said the 2022 Wimbledon and US Open runner-up.
Last year, Jabeur lost in the quarterfinals against former World No. 1 and DDFTC two-time champion Simona Halep of Romania, the 2018 Roland Garros and 2019 Wimbledon titlist.
Djokovic, Nadal, and Jabeur banner this year’s DDFTC not just as top players but as history-makers as well.
Djokovic and Nadal are the only players in the Open Era who have completed the double career grand slam, which means that they won all four slams at least twice.
Jabeur, meanwhile, is the first Arab to reach a grand slam final in the 2022 Wimbledon. She followed it up with a finalist finish at the US Open two months later.
DDFTC tournament director Salah Tahlak remarked, “We are looking forward to another fortnight of incredible tennis, with an elite lineup of some of the world’s best talent.”
The 2023 women’s competition is a WTA 1000 tilt while the men’s tourney is an ATP 500 event.