Andy Murray and Roger Federer kick up a sand storm ahead of Dubai campaigns
Andy Murray and Roger Federer have arrived in the Emirates in plenty of time to prepare for the Dubai Duty Free Championships
World No1 Andy Murray and seven-time Dubai champion, No9 Roger Federer, arrived in the Emirates in plenty of time to prepare for the Dubai Duty Free Championships—which get under way next week—but hard work gave way fun and games ahead of next week’s Dubai Duty Free Championships.
Both men are back in action for the first time since their contrasting passages through the Australian Open a month ago.
Federer, ranked outside the top 16 seeds after missing six months to rehab his knee after surgery a year ago, beat four top-10 players, including Rafael Nadal in one of the most memorable finals in recent years, to claim his first Grand Slam in almost five years.
Murray, during the same six months of 2016, surged from the final in Madrid to the title in Rome, made a final run at Roland Garros, then a clean sweep on the grass of Queen’s and Wimbledon, followed by Olympic gold. He then went unbeaten through Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Paris and the World Tour Finals. But come Australia, his efforts in claiming the No1 spot for the first time weighed heavy: He lost in the fourth round.
Murray has never won in Dubai—indeed his closest chance came in the final of 2012, when he lost Federer. But the two men took time out from their preparations for a title campaign this year for a rather more light-hearted match—on the beach-front of Dubai.
With Tournament Director Salah Tahlak on hand to umpire, the iconic Burj Al Arab at the Jumeirah Al Naseem hotel provided the perfect backdrop for their warm up, though the conditions this year have been uncommonly cool and overcast. It also gave the tournament a chance to publicise this special year: Its 25th anniversary.
Since winning his 18th Grand Slam, Federer has shunned the warm climes of his second home in Dubai in favour of the snow and mountains of his beloved Switzerland. And at every turn, he has been photographing his replica Australia trophy. Now, with the big Indian Wells and Miami Masters, which he missed last year, looming over the horizon, the celebrations are over and he is raring to go.
“I’m looking forward to playing, especially on the anniversary of 25 years here in Dubai. It’s nice to be part of a tournament celebrating something. I’ve had some great years here, and I wanted to be in good shape and ready for the conditions, so I came early this year.
“The players like this tournament so much. It’s well organized and well run with good crowds. Today was a nice way to start the celebrations of 25 years. Now I can’t wait for the tournament to start.”
Murray has also been keeping a low profile at home: This time last year, he became a father, so there were undoubtedly celebrations at the Murrays’ home on the elegant southern outskirts of London. He did, though, break out of his bubble to announce the name of the special player who will join him for his second Andy Murray Live fundraiser in Glasgow at the end of the year: No less than Federer himself.
And while Murray was wrapped up as if to combat the chilly British weather, he clearly enjoyed this departure from the hard-court Dubai path.
“It was good fun today playing on the beach, I’ve never done that and the sun came out for us, so that was a good start to the day.
“I enjoy coming to Dubai, I’ve played here a number of years. I feel fresh, I’ve had a long break since the Australian Open and I feel refreshed and looking forward to competing again.”
Murray and Federer are not the only top players pursuing the Dubai title, however. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka will be the second seed, while Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Lucas Pouille are also in the draw.
The fate of all of them—and most particularly in which half of the draw Federer will fall—is determined in Dubai tomorrow at 12.30pm local time.