Andy Murray enjoying 'brilliant practice' and family time ahead of Dubai Championships

Former world No 1 has accepted a wildcard for the tournament

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Andy Murray said he is undergoing "great preparation" for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, with the former world No 1 already on site getting familiar with the court and conditions.

Murray, champion in Dubai in 2017, has accepted a wildcard for the 2023 tournament, which takes place from February 27 to March 4 and features eight of the world's top 20 players, including world No 1 Novak Djokovic.

Preparing to take on a strong field, Murray has been practicing at the venue this week and said he is in good shape ahead of his bid for a second Dubai title.

“Practice has been brilliant,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said. “The court was pretty much brand-new when we started, so I got some really good sessions in. The team here have been unbelievably helpful. It’s been great preparation for these next two weeks – I’ve loved it.

“Everything has been super easy and smooth,” Murray added. “The facilities are fantastic, great gyms – they’ve even got a gym just for the players to use now, which is really nice."

Murray first appeared at the tournament 15 years ago, making his debut in 2008 where he defeated then world No 1 Roger Federer in the first round en route to the quarter-finals. In seven appearances, the 35-year-old Scot also reached the final in 2015.

“The tournament has changed a lot since the first time I was here," he said. "I mean, the whole city has changed, but the tournament has evolved. With the hotel here onsite now, it is brilliant for the players; it’s so easy and convenient – you spend no time in cars, or traffic, or anything. You’re right here.

“They always have brilliant food, great crowds, and lots of practice courts. I think the players have voted Dubai as one of the best ATP 500 events multiple times in the last 10 years or so, which says a lot. And each year the organisers keep improving it, so there’s really nothing to complain about.”

Murray has had an encouraging start to the season after coming through two marathon five-set matches at the Australian Open, putting his fitness to the test as he aims to return near the top of the rankings following career-saving hip surgery in 2019.

Murray hasn't played since his third-round exit at Melbourne Park but has got an extended team with him in Dubai, keeping him busy on and off the court.

“The kids are off this week, so they were able to come over,” he said. “It’s been part-training and part-holiday. We went to the aquarium at The Atlantis, watched the fountains outside the Burj Khalifa, and went to Miracle Gardens, which was good. We may go to one of the waterparks, but the kids are just loving being on the beach and in the pool – they are more than happy with that. It’s been really good.”

In addition to Djokovic, Murray will be joined in Dubai by defending champion Andrey Rublev, 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, and world No 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“We are pleased to have Andy here with us, arriving early and taking the time to settle in and make the most of our facilities,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO at Dubai Duty Free.

“As much as we know this tournament is popular among the players, as its organisers we remain very ambitious, so it’s great to hear Andy speaking so positively about the tournament evolution and acknowledging the hard work we are doing to constantly improve."

Before the men take to the courts, the WTA tournament will begin on Sunday headlined by world No 1 Iga Swiatek and recently-crowned Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka. However, Tunisian star and world No 3 Ons Jabeur will be absent due to injury.

Updated: February 16, 2023, 11:25 AM