Tennis is one of the most versatile sports in the world, capable of being played on a range of surfaces, from clay that has been dyed blue, to tennis grass seeds, to a mix of clay and grass, to astroturf and artificial hard courts, to grass courts a third of a kilometre in the sky.
The year is 2005, and the Dubai Duty-Free Men’s Championships are set to take place at the end of February, having grown from an ATP 250 event in 1993 to a then ATP 500 event in 2001 with the debut of a women’s tournament that same year.
2005 was a big year for the Dubai Tennis Championships, having become the third professional tennis event to feature an equal money policy, and as part of preparations for the tournament and a way to garner more attention from top players the 7-star Burj al Arab hotel staged a unique exhibition.
Atop its helipad, World Number One Roger Federer and tennis legend Andre Agassi were asked to play tennis on a helipad at the top of the hotel that had been converted into a slightly smaller-than-usual tennis court, with no fencing on the edges to stop balls or players from falling.
Captured by a helicopter camera crew, the 20-minute exhibition became worldwide news in the run-up to the tournament and helped put the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Championships, and tennis in the Middle East in general, on the map.
Roger Federer has played on a range of odd courts in many odd settings, including a battle of the surfaces showdown on a mixed clay and grass court a few years later.
With the Dubai Championships now a WTA 1000 tournament and the first major tournament after the Australian Open, they may have the highest ever tennis court to thank for that.