The ATP Dubai Duty Free Men's Tennis Championship that follows on after the WTA event next week will be a special one for Serbian Novak Djokovic.
The current world No. 1, who won his eighth Australian Open in Melbourne earlier this month to extend his Grand Slam record to 17 titles, has been granted the Gold Card residence visa by the UAE.
The 32-year-old, a four-time winner in Dubai, was issued the 10-year residence visa following the approval by the UAE Cabinet, spearheaded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, earlier this month.
Earlier this month, local reports claimed Djokovic and football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo were among the recipients of the golden visa.
Other top sportspersons such as Didier Drogba, Eric Abidal and Roger Federer – all of who own homes in the UAE - are expected to join this growing list in the near future.
The golden card, which was announced in May in 2019 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, is a 10-year residence visa. Soon after its launch, more than 400 businesspeople and investors, including some of their families, were granted the residence visa, with dozens more receiving it each day.
“I’m not really yet sure about all the benefits and privileges of that honour,” Djokovic, 32, said during his press conference after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his fifth Dubai title.
“I am grateful because I've been friends for years with His Highness [Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai]. I want to thank him for allowing me to train at his facility for the years I've been coming to Dubai.
“The golden visa is, I like to think, a positive consequence of the relationship that we have, as well, alongside other big athletes like Ronaldo. I'm honoured to be in that group.”
Djokovic has been a frequent visitor to the UAE over the years. He has competed in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 11 times, winning the title in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and now this year. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has also played at the pre-season Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on six occasions.
“Dubai has been a very important city in my career, not just because of the tournament, but because I've been coming as a tourist here and using this as a base for pre-season training,” Djokovic said.
“I really enjoy it. I can't wait to come back again. If you ask my children, they'll probably be even more excited to come back to Dubai.”