x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

From football to Formula one, the biggest names in sport are flocking to the UAE

The UAE's remarkable progress as a magnet for some of the top events and top sportsmen and sportswomen in the world is truly inspiring.


Aviation Club to continue hosting the Dubai Tennis event

Djokovic stalls Federer again to extend his Dubai domination

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Six fifty-five pm on Saturday night near the Dubai airport, the place just about bubbled with buzz. A mighty show loomed. A crammed crowd stirred. People squabbled over seats, hassling an earnest usher.

It always bodes well for events when people squabble over seats, even if you feel for the earnest ushers.

Through 6.56, 6.57, 6.58 and 6.59 it built, the people and the Swiss flags and the Serbian flags anticipating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic emerging from the catacombs.

And as that kind of big-time feeling sets to subside in the UAE, as the heavy-event season fades toward the torpid summer with only the Dubai World Cup horse race hovering over the terrain up ahead, that scene before 7pm at the Aviation Club fits snugly with the fashion of the last four months.

Global trends have been upheld across four months here. Flukes and quirks have yielded. The big have come up big and Tiger Woods has not.

As Djokovic raised the considerable dhow trophy on Saturday evening, it cemented that Abu Dhabi and Dubai have majored in form, as if the hot names in the sports derive further dominance from the breathable air.

The curious Formula One entity Red Bull, possible only through an Austrian visionary's long-ago observing of kinetic Thai taxi drivers, supposedly had become a fresh Godzilla.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix confirmed that when Red Bull added the drivers' championship to the constructors' title.

The German driver Sebastian Vettel supposedly hit age 23 with a future promising bigness, and that theme deepened when Vettel sagely steered around the Yas Marina Circuit to titles both daily (in the 19th race) and seasonal (for all 19 races).

With the Ryder Cup a sidelight, we did hear that the European PGA Tour had caught up to the PGA Tour in leaderboard quality and maybe even outright glamour.

That assertion gained confirmation in late November at Jumeirah Golf Estates in a gaudy leaderboard of Westwoods and Poulters and McIlroys and Caseys that seemed superior to anything the regular old PGA Tour could cook up.

Inter Milan, having spent spring 2010 becoming the first Italian club with a too-nice-to-covet treble, punctuated their hardware year in the Club World Cup in December, even if the venture did include one tricky detail I'll broach in a moment.

If indeed it was time for Africa, as the song went deathlessly, the Congolese club TP Mazembe reiterated the same, zapping Brazil's Internacionale to access a final opposite Inter Milan.

Approaching the Fina Short Course World Championships at a gleaming Dubai facility, a swimming expert emailed the theme of the event: "Ryan Lochte, Ryan Lochte, Ryan Lochte." Lochte failed to uphold this so miserably that he reaped six gold medals and one silver rather than seven golds, the lazy lug.

He became the first person to win seven medals in the event and, more tellingly in the cementing of zeitgeist, the only person to set world records since swimmers stripped off those too-helpful body suits and went back to real human-versus-water achievements.

Certainly we live in a world that belongs largely to Martin Kaymer, and certainly the German golf phenom reminded us of this when he annihilated the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship field by a gaping eight strokes along his climb to his fresh world No 1 perch of this morning.

And as much as those winning storylines have boomed around the world and then boomed more around here, so has Woods's not-winning storyline. In that sense, his visit to Dubai in February remains consistent with his recent performances.

At one point on No 8, when he nearly disappeared behind some dunes after another unwanted stray from the fairway, it seemed awfully apt.

At another point on No 18 on Sunday, after a week spent with the usual promising flashes and the now-usual closing doors and the now-very-usual discussions of swing mechanics, he triple-bogeyed, a sight once unthinkable but by now fashionable.

Then the whole bustling season went to tennis. And to Caroline Wozniacki demonstrating why she holds down No 1. And to Djokovic showing just how he won the Australian Open while seeing zero fifth sets and only one fourth. And to 6.55pm, as the buzz reflected the soaring era of the game forged through Federer and Rafael Nadal and, increasingly, Djokovic.

Among the few wrinkles to the smooth runs of the giants here would be the wacky fact that after winning the Club World Cup on a Saturday night, Rafael Benitez, the Inter Milan manager, got the not-golden boot on the following Thursday after only six months and 13 days in the post.

Yeah, a football manager got a fast sacking.

Come to think of it, there went another trend.