Join Date: Nov 2001
Federer, Henin-Hardenne return to defend Dubai tennis titles
By A Correspondent
4 January 2005
DUBAI — Dubai Duty Free’s announcement that World No 1 Roger Federer and former French and US Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne will both return to defend their respective Dubai Tennis Championships titles adds extra spice to what is shaping to be another mouthwatering tournament.
Wimbledon champion Federer is among the hottest properties on the tennis circuit, while Henin-Hardenne, who succumbed to a virus mid-way through the season but still managed to win Gold at the Olympics, will be looking for her third consecutive Dubai Women’s Open. Both Federer — who is also chasing his third straight Dubai title — and Henin-Hardenne will spearhead a top-class player line-up. In the Men’s Open, superstar Andre Agassi will make his first ever appearance in Dubai, while the big hitting Russian Marat Safin returns for his fifth tournament.
In the Women’s Open, Venus Williams will be joined for the first time by her sister Serena while World No 1 Lindsay Davenport will make her first appearance at the Championships.
“We are delighted that some of the biggest names in World tennis are coming to Dubai for what will no doubt be another spectacular event,” said Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free.
“Dubai has earned a reputation as a leading sports city and the confirmation of these much sought-after players will only further underline its position as a truly great sporting destination.”
The 23-year-old Federer, who has drawn comparisons to a young Agassi due to his flamboyance on court and trademark ponytail, followed his success at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open this year with the biggest trophy of them all at Wimbledon. With 11 titles this season including the Dubai Men’s Open, three Grand Slams, the Tennis Masters Cup and three ATP Masters Series events, it is no wonder Federer is being mentioned among the game’s greats.
And to cap off a remarkable year, Federer was named Swiss Sportsman of the Year for his performances in 2004. It completed a hat-trick of honors within the space of a week for Federer who was also named Overseas Sports Personality by the BBC and European Sportsman of the Year by the European Sports Journalists Association.
Henin-Hardenne, meanwhile, will be keen to re-establish herself as one of the sport’s greats after a difficult, and at times, frustrating season. The former World No 1 missed much of 2004 due to a viral problem which she was unable to shake off. The pocket-sized Belgian is now back to full fitness and will be determined to continue her run of success in Dubai.
The Women’s Open will offer plenty of big clashes, and the return of the hard-hitting Venus Williams to Dubai is also a massive boost to not only the tournament, but to the women’s game in general. Venus has played in the Dubai Women’s Open twice previously, including last year when she was knocked out in the quarterfinals.
The Williams sisters are arguably the biggest stars of the women’s game, but a series of injuries has seen them slide from the top rankings.
Rarely seen at the same tournaments on the tour - other than Grand Slams and Tier 1 events - their appearance at the tournament is somewhat of a coup for organizers Dubai Duty Free and further confirms the popularity of the Championships amongst players.
For the first time in its history, the two-week Dubai Tennis Championships will be launched by the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open from February 21-27 with the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open following from February 28 to March 5. Both tournaments will be held at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.
Although the 2005 Dubai Tennis Championships — which, for the men, will be in its 13th year — is expected to attract half of the world’s top 10 players as well as Agassi, Dubai Duty Free will freeze ticket prices at 2004 levels.
“The Dubai public has helped this event to grow into the success story it is today and we want to repay them by keeping ticket prices at an affordable level,” said McLoughlin.
“We confidently expect the appearance of these big name players to be a great boost not only for the tournament but also for sport in the Middle East.”
The Dubai Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and takes place under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence.