By Paul Newman www.independent.co.uk
On Saturday he went up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, yesterday he held court at the Burj Al Arab, the iconic Dubai hotel built in the shape of a billowing sail, and tomorrow he will get back to the business of playing matches. The Dubai Duty Free Championships, which begin here today, will be Andy Murray’s first tournament since the Australian Open ended four weeks ago.
The 24-year-old Scot could hardly have chosen a tougher challenge. Eight of the world’s top 10 players are here, including Novak Djokovic, who is also making his first post-Melbourne appearance, and Roger Federer, who has been much the busiest of the game’s Fab Four, having already played this month in the Davis Cup and in Rotterdam. Rafael Nadal, who is resting an injured shoulder, will not play again until next month.
There is no tournament in the world where such talent is condensed into a 32-man field as it is here. If Murray beats Germany’s Michael Berrer, the world No 115, in the first round, the likelihood is that he would have to beat Nikolay Davydenko, Tomas Berdych, Djokovic and then Federer in order to win the title.
“Normally when you come up against a top 10 player you have three or four matches under your belt,” Murray said. “It can come a bit sooner in this tournament. A few years ago I played Federer in the first round, so you can get some really tough draws here. You have to come in ready.”
Murray feels in good shape, having arrived on Wednesday night after spending a week and a half training hard in Florida with his new coach, Ivan Lendl. The world No 4 has practised every day, though he did not hit for long yesterday because a sandstorm had left sand on the playing surface. Workers armed with brooms and vacuum cleaners were still clearing the main stadium late into the evening.
Murray was talking on a terrace on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab, the ultra-swish hotel where the tournament puts up the leading players. Having successfully deflected a question from a local journalist about the Scottish referendum – “I’ll step past that one,” he said – Murray was diplomatic when asked whether the Burj Al Arab was the best hotel he had ever stayed in. “I should probably say yes,” he smiled. “The decorations aren’t maybe quite how I would design my apartment, but it’s an unbelievable hotel.”
He has been enjoying the Dubai experience. “I went to the Dubai Mall the other day and I went up the Burj Khalifa,” he said. “Some people like it, some people don’t, but I’ve had good fun here seeing a few of the sights. The mall is incredible, absolutely massive.” More info