Feb 22, 2024

The second edition of the all-female tournament drew to a close last weekend

Final day’s play was completely sold out

Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open Schools Program engaged over 10,000 children

Four Emirati females played key roles in various elements of tournament

February 20, 2024 – Abu Dhabi, UAE: As Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakinahoisted the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open trophy aloft, and the curtain closed on the second instalment of the WTA 500 event, the magnitude of what had taken place over the course of the nine-day tournament slowly began to sink in.

On and off-court, this was an event which truly made its mark.

A star-studded playing field, including eight of the world’s top 20, along with Grand Slam-winners Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu, ensured the tennis action was always going to take centre stage.

And so it proved.

Rybakina’s effortless quality stole the show – and secured the trophy – while there were eye-catching performances throughout the tournament from the likes of Daria Kasatkina, Liudmila Samsonova and Beatriz Haddad Maia, who triumphed in the longest WTA main-draw match of 2024, defeating Magda Linette in 3 hours and 42 minutes.

Those fans descending on the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City to throw their support behind Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur saw her produce a brilliant performance to overcome Raducanu, while American Danielle Collins eliminated Osaka, the former World No. 1, in straight sets.

Yara Alhogbani, meanwhile, made history by becoming the first Saudi Arabian to compete in a WTA tournament, a hugely significant milestone for the MENA region.

Roberto Ranieri, WTA Tour Supervisor, said: “While the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open remains, in relative terms, a new event, the growth of the tournament in the past year has been incredible.

 “We welcomed some of the biggest and best names in the women’s game this year and it was great to see such a positive response from the local community, who really threw their support behind the event.”

On that particular subject, big strides were made when it came to tapping into the local community through fantastic initiatives such as the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open Schools Program, launched with the aim of enhancing the overall educational experience for children across the capital and introducing them to tennis through a series of fun and exciting activities.

The initiative engaged over 10,000 children through 25 morning assemblies hosted at schools across Abu Dhabi, where guest speakers provided an insightful introduction to tennis and the tournament itself, while many of the youngsters on the program took part in a flag ceremony on the final day of the tournament with friends and family watching on from the stands.

Additionally, the Road to Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open was created ahead of this year’s event to provide a pathway for aspiring tennis players in the UAE to develop their skills, with tournaments held across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Fujairah.

The top performing players then competed in a play-off on the final Saturday of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, with a host of special prizes up for grabs, including an all-expenses-paid trip to train at the prestigious Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy in Spain.

Now set to take place annually, the Road to Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open will play a significant role in the growth and evolution of tennis in the UAE for many years to come.

Activating the community and facilitating the expansion and popularity of the sport was a particular area of focus in the lead-up to this year’s event, with a groundbreaking program implemented to develop the talent pool of local line umpires, where graduates earned the opportunity to officiate on-court at the tournament itself. The program hopes to expand further in the lead up to the 2025 tournament and also introduce a new Chair Umpire training course for those to further explore a career in tennis.

The event also shone a spotlight on female Emiratis, with four highly talented individuals in their respective fields selected to play important roles across the event, including Azza AlQubaisi, who was tasked with designing the trophy eventually lifted by Rybakina.

Other Emirati females to feature were photographer Hind AlRaeesi, who conducted a photoshoot with Jabeur and Alhogbani in traditional Arabic dress, artist Aysha Al Shamsi, responsible for creating the main artwork for the Mubadala Pavilion and chef Meera Eisa Alnaqbi, creator of fantastic dishes which were enjoyed by both players and spectators throughout the tournament.

The tournament remains in its infancy, particularly when compared to high-profile sporting events which have been staples of the UAE calendar for many years, such as the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and DP World Tour Championship golf.

However, there is little doubt the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open has made a big impact in a short period of time, with the final day’s play a complete sell-out, and thousands of fans passing through the gates over the course of the competition.

Of course, a stellar line-up of players generates interest, intrigue and excitement.

Many of those participants spoke in glowing terms about both the event and Abu Dhabi as a destination, stressing their desire to return next year.

It would be foolish to rule out the 2025 instalment surpassing this year.

For now, however, the final word goes to IMG’s Tournament Director, Nigel Gupta.

“We are delighted with the overall success of this year’s event having witnessed some fantastic entertainment both on and off-court.

“It was a hugely competitive player field, and we congratulate our top seed Elena Rybakina who was a thoroughly deserving winner of the tournament.

“We saw thousands of fans attending, particularly over the closing weekend, which showcases not only the growth of the tournament, which is still only in its second year, but also the evolution and popularity of tennis in the UAE.

“Preparations will soon begin for next year’s event which we hope will be even bigger and better.”

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