Following Belinda Bencic’s singles triumph in the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, organisers are determined to build a long-lasting legacy that will help inspire females to play the sport and enhance Abu Dhabi’s position as a global sporting destination.
Throughout eight days, the International Tennis Centre in Zayed Sports City welcomed many of the world’s top 20 players for the landmark WTA 500 event as Abu Dhabi became the newest permanent destination for the world’s professional women’s tennis tour.
Produced by global sports, events and media company IMG and hosted in partnership between Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Mubadala, the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open showcased the very best of world-class tennis from the women’s professional stars. It marked the start of a new chapter in which the tournament is now officially part of the WTA calendar – paving a way for females in the UAE to follow in the footsteps of their tennis heroes.
It also came during a significant moment in the history of the sport, with the WTA celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023. Founded by Billie Jean King, winner of 39 major titles, on the principle of equal opportunity, particularly prize money, the organisation has established itself as a global leader in women’s professional sports and continues to champion women’s tennis.
Today, its calendar includes more than 50 tournaments which are held on six continents and will entertain a global audience of 900 million this year.
It comes at a time where more women are playing sport with tennis being the fourth most popular worldwide in 2021 based on figures by Statista, while Naomi Osaka was the only female in Forbes’ highest-paid athletes in 2022. In contrast, Osaka and Serena Williams are in the publication’s top three highest-paid female athletes with the top-10 list dominated by other tennis stars including Emma Raducanu, World No.1 Iga Swiatek and Venus Williams.
The organisers are eager to increase that number and allow girls to follow in the footsteps of Osaka and Williams, by aligning their efforts with the Government’s long-term strategy to help create a healthy and inclusive society and encourage females to take up sport.
As part of the tournament, a strategic partnership was forged with the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Academy (FBMA), an organisation that is dedicated to promoting and facilitating women’s sports in the UAE, to deliver an informative panel discussion in front of children and adults.
Held in the Fan Village which also had a number of Q&A sessions and tennis-themed activities, former World No.1 Karolína Plíšková and singles finalist Liudmila Samsonova joined FBMA volleyball and basketball athletes – Hanan Al Bloushi and Claudine Al Zahed to highlight the importance of sport and the crucial role it can have on people’s lives.
The staging of this year’s Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open came at an important time for Abu Dhabi during which more local, regional and world-class international sporting competitions are being held. As well as this, community events such as triathlons or running events are providing more opportunities for all adults and children to get involved.
Along with the Government significantly investing in excellent infrastructure and grassroots initiatives, the event strengthens Abu Dhabi’s position as a global sporting destination. Located within eight hours’ flying time for two-thirds of the world’s population, Abu Dhabi is perfectly situated to welcome athletes, media, federations, and spectators to the Emirate. While it enables them to visit iconic tourism attractions and learn new cultures, it also gives them a first-hand view of why Middle East is quickly establishing itself as a global hub for world-class sporting events.
With the tournament being held just before the WTA events in Qatar and Dubai, the location also provides easy access with both destinations only a one-hour flight away.
The World No.9 Swiss had nothing but praise for the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open. She said: “I am always a big fan of playing in new cities and environments on the WTA Tour so when I heard that Abu Dhabi would be hosting the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, I did not hesitate to confirm my participation.
“All of the players including myself have a responsibility to help grow the sport and I was really impressed to see many people watch the tennis throughout the week in Abu Dhabi as well as the activities that were lined up off the court. I hope this can inspire and empower the younger generation particularly females to play sport in the future.”
Vickie Gunnarsson, Director, Tennis Events, IMG, said: “Since the WTA announced Abu Dhabi as the latest city to join its calendar, we have been working closely with our strategic partners to deliver a tournament that will benefit the youth, particularly females going forward.
“It is our overriding mission to make a positive difference that will touch people’s lives for the better and the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open saw a wide range of initiatives being rolled out – all aimed to encourage the growth of the game and showcase the power of sport. This is just the start of our journey and we hope every year the tournament will inspire girls and women to the best they can be–in tennis or anything they want to do.
She continued: “We are thankful to all involved in delivering the first ever Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, and we look forward to seeing this positive growth continue in 2024.”
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