Battling against the dying of the light, 36-year-old Andy Murray was practising his serve and volleys at the empty Dubai Tennis Stadium on Sunday, less than 24 hours before the start of the ATP 500 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

It's a tournament that has been won by the Who’s Who of tennis, from Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal to Murray himself when the Big Four had the monopoly on the Grand Slam semifinals.

Now Murray has returned to Dubai on a wild card, hoping to recapture some of his old magic that earned him three Grand Slam trophies and two Olympic singles gold medals.

The British icon faces a tricky first round clash against Denis Shapovalov, a hugely talented Canadian whose ranking has dropped to 121 after a spate of injuries.

Over the next two days, the tournament will also see defending champion Daniil Medvedev, 2022 winner Andrey Rublev and a host of top players open their campaign.

But this award-winning tournament is also going to make history on Monday when Sebastian Korda, the 23-year-old American, makes his Dubai debut — 25 years after his father, Petr Korda, played here for the third and final time.

“It’s pretty cool, to be the first one to play after my dad. It’s a privilege being here, it’s so relaxed and so easy. It’s a great tournament,” Sebastian told the Khaleej Times when asked on what it is like to become the first father-son combination to play in Dubai.

Petr, the Czech tennis icon who famously won the Australian Open title in 1998, recorded his best Dubai performance in 1995 when he reached the semifinals here.

Remarkably, 20 years after his father’s Australian Open triumph, Sebastian, whose sisters, Jessica and Nelly, are successful professional golfers, won the Australian Open junior singles title in 2018.

“I think it was a steppingstone in my career, just gave me a path going forward, I turned pro later that year as well. I also have a lot of great memories in Australia for myself as well as my sisters as they both won the Australian Open golf (major tournament). So, we have a lot of good history in Australia,” he smiled.

Sebastian, the world 33 and a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open last year, is now hoping to make a deep run in Dubai as he looks to build momentum for the 2024 season.

“I would like to go as far as possible, but the ATP 500 is not an easy tournament, there are no easy matches, every match would be tough and you know, there are a lot of great players playing here, so it’s going to be a lot of fun for sure and I would love to have a good tournament,” he said.

“If you have a good tournament here, you are playing a lot of great players and it would give a lot of confidence going forward. It’s just a matter of being patient, just waiting for your time to come and hopefully, I can keep the momentum going and have a great tournament and a great year ahead.”

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