x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

What makes the best tournament of Dubai tick?

Workers behind the scenes at the Dubai Tennis Open given praise by the managing director.

Volunteers get some exercise at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Courtesy Dubai Duty Free
Volunteers get some exercise at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Courtesy Dubai Duty Free

Earlier this week, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was voted the best ATP World Tour 500 tournament by the players. They received the award for the seventh time in eight years.

For Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of Dubai Duty Free (DDF), the award is a reflection of all the "hard work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the players, officials and spectators have a fantastic experience during our event".

Magdy al Shekh is one of the men working tirelessly behind the scenes towards ensuring a comfortable tournament for the players and fans, and making it a success.

Work for him starts more than two months before the tournament: they meet and brief the different government departments, and train more than 250 of their DDF staff for the event.

"We sit down together, draw up the plans for everything and after that, we co-ordinate everything, with each department," said al Shekh, a DDF marketing assistant, who is in charge of the security at the tournament and the VIP hospitality.

"We pull our staff from shop floors to work here during the tournament. We have around 180 staff just as ushers. Than we also have staff in other departments, like the players' lounge, finance and accounts. So in total we have around 250 to 270 people approximately.

"We arrange transport for them, we arrange for their food. There is also payment for overtime because they are working really hard. We try our best to keep the staff and volunteers happy, to make them feel comfortable."

A lot of time is also invested in training and briefing the DDF staff about the requirements of the players and fans to ensure nobody has a complaint and the tournament goes ahead smoothly.

"Before the tournament starts, we bring everyone together and have a briefing," said al Shekh. "We tell them what they have to do, what is allowed, what is not allowed and to be nice to everybody, and look to the needs of everybody.

"We don't want anything to happen that will put a bad record on the tournament, from the WTA or the ATP, or the other people.

"We tell our staff about all the requirements of the WTA and ATP, and we try to do the best from our side.

"The Dubai Police also supports us a lot, and also the civil defence and ambulance services.

"All the government departments, all of us are working as a team and as a family during the tournament.

"Everything goes smoothly, but we always get a hard time only from the RTA [Roads and Transport Authority] - to get their permission, really it is a hard time. But we have them as a sponsor this time and I believe things will get smoother."

Roger Federer, who is at playing here for the eighth year, said: "Here I think they work extremely hard. They're very well organised, professional. At the end of the day every tournament has its own charm. I'm sure, every tournament's worked on throughout the year to make it perfect for one week; it's a pretty tough job."