ABU DHABI // Thousands flocked to the sold-out final of the three-day Capitala World Tennis Championship yesterday to watch matches featuring the world's top two players. Along with the hordes of fans came people trying to profit from the event, with reports of tickets being offered at highly inflated prices. Tickets for yesterday's matches at Zayed Sports City were sold by organisers for between Dh165 (US$45) and Dh330. Top-ranked Roger Federer defeated David Ferrer in the third-place match, and world No2 Rafael Nadal beat Robin Soderling in the final to win US$250,000 in prize money.
The resale of tickets is not illegal in the UAE, although some organisers actively discourage scalping, particular near the entry of a venue. But before the start of play yesterday, scalpers, or touts, were approaching spectators and asking if they needed tickets. One man who would only identify himself as Daniel, a 30-year-old Abu Dhabi resident from Norway, said he was asked if he wanted to buy a Dh165 ticket for Dh500.
"He was asking everyone, but this is standard at any event," Daniel said, adding that he eventually found tickets from someone selling them for the original price. "I was very pleased to find a ticket," he said. Bill Stettner, 37, from the US, was among the crowd on the grounds of the 5,000-capacity International Tennis Complex when he was approached by two men. "One man was offering tickets and had a handful. He didn't look like he'd bought them to go to the event," Mr Stettner said.
"[The other] was hanging around the ticket booths asking for extra tickets. We thought it was very peculiar." Annelies Overkamp, 45, from Holland, said she saw a man in the public parking area on Friday asking people if they needed tickets. "He was just asking very quietly whether people wanted tickets. I overheard him asking for Dh400," she said. "It's very common at these events anywhere, but I feel sorry for them if that's the way they earn their living."
One Turkish spectator, who declined to be identified, turned up to the stadium in the hopes of finding a ticket, but walked away empty-handed. He was not approached by scalpers yesterday but said someone had offered him tickets on Thursday, the first day of an event featuring six of the world's top male players. "It is bad to do this, but maybe these people are making the tickets available for someone who wants to go," he said.
A spokesman for Flash Entertainment, the tournament organisers, said people selling on tickets can happen at any sold-out event. "We obviously don't condone this," he said. "The tickets were priced affordably but due to the popularity of the event and the fact that it was sold out these things can happen." Last February, organisers of the Dubai Tennis Championships warned against scalping, with reports of some tickets being sold for almost seven times the original price.