Rafael Nadal adds ATP 500 event to his schedule – ‘We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Rafa back’

Rafael Nadal at practice Credit: Alamy
Rafael Nadal at practice Credit: Alamy

Rafael Nadal will make a return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this year as he will compete in the ATP 500 event for the first time in 15 years.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner will make his third appearance in the tournament with his last visit to Dubai coming back in 2008 when he lost in the quarter-final.

He made his debut at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre as a 19-year-old back in 2006 and he went all the way as he defeated Roger Federer in the final while his title defence was ended in the last eight the following year.

“As one of the most instantly recognisable personalities in global sport, and one of the most decorated players to ever grace the game, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Rafa back to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after 15 years,” Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, said.

“The last time Rafa played in Dubai, he had won three Grand Slams. He returns having amassed more Grand Slam titles than any other male player in history.”

Nadal had opted to play in Latin America the past few years as last year and in 2020 he competed at the Mexican Open and won the title. However, he admitted during an exhibition event in December that he won’t defend his Mexican crown this year.

He will instead head to the Middle East with the tournament scheduled for February 27-March 5.

Andrey Rublev is the defending champion after beating qualifier Jiri Vesely in last year’s final while the tournament also marked Novak Djokovic’s first appearance of the 2022 season after he missed the Australian Open due to his unvaccinated staus.

“We are looking forward to another fortnight of incredible tennis, with an elite line-up of some of the world’s best talent,” tournament director Salah Tahlak said.

“To welcome Rafael Nadal back to Dubai after such a long time brings me great joy and I am sure fans will be as excited as I am to see Rafa competing at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium once again.

“With the full players fields for both tournaments set to be confirmed in the coming weeks, we are sure to have another pair of unforgettable men’s and women’s tournaments with many of the best players in the world.”

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