x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Aviation Club to continue hosting the Dubai Tennis event

Tournament to stay at venue instead of Dubai Sports City but will not move up in class on the ATP Tour.

The Aviation Club was the venue for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this month.
The Aviation Club was the venue for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this month.

DUBAI // The decision to retain the Aviation Club as host venue of the city's annual professional tennis tournaments will deny the men's event the possibility to become a top-level tour stop in the near future. But Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of the tournament, yesterday argued there would be little benefit to upgrading at this stage.

The tournament, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, is rated as a 500 Series event on the ATP tour. But having seen the players vote Dubai the best event at that level for seven of the past eight years, the natural progression would seem to be to apply to become a Masters 1,000 competition, which is one level below the four grand slams.

Yet the decision not to relocate the tournament, along with the women's WTA event, has rendered that option nearly impossible.

ATP rules state that a tournament may be eligible for Masters 1000 classification only if the venue offers a "stadium court, two other show courts plus one practice court" - all with lights. The venue must also offer two additional match courts and three additional practice courts.

At present, the Aviation Club has one show court, three alternative match courts and six practice courts."In your mind, you think 'Yeah it would be nice to be a Masters 1000 event' but there are so many things surrounding it," McLoughlin said. "We have decided among ourselves to stay here for the foreseeable future and we may make some adjustments to the stadium, but whether we can do adjustments that will add 4,000-5,000 seats, we're not so sure.

"Also, if you want to upgrade to a Masters 1000 tournament, you have to buy a week somewhere and that could be $10 million (Dh36.7m) to $15 million. And the whole point in upgrading is you get the world's top players, but [last night] we had the world No 2 and world No 3 and last week we saw the world No 1 female win here. For the minute we are OK."

Nicola Arzani, the ATP's senior vice-president of public relations and marketing, said he was delighted with how the past week's tournament has unfolded, with many evening matches being played in front of packed crowds.

"When you are consistently recognised as one of the best tournaments in your category, it is not always easy to find ways to improve. But it is a good challenge that I am sure the organisers are happy to have," he said.

The Aviation Club Hotel, a 293-room complex within walking distance of the tennis venue, is under construction and hopes to bring all the players and organisers under one roof for two weeks of the year. It is expected to open next year.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae