The top two players in the world take to the court for their first matches since the Australian Open in the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Following on from the Women’s event last week that Simona Halep won, the Men’s event will welcome four of the top 10 while all seeds are in the top 20. The event has been dominated by Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – since 2002 there has been just two other winners.
Check out the Full Draw: ATP Dubai 2015 Draw
Djokovic has won 4 of the last 6, including three in a row in the 2009-2011 stretch. He will be the favourite to win his fifth and extend his winning streak to 12 matches. He is 2-0 against his opening opponent Vasek Pospisil, most recently defeating the Canadian in straight sets on his way to the title in Beijing last year. Big serving Frenchman Fabrice Martin sprung a shock in qualifying by defeating Borna Coric in a third set tie break to make the main draw. He faces Andrey Golubev for the chance to likely test himself against the World No.1.
Another two qualifiers make up the top quarter of the draw with Marsel Ilhan playing Alexander Zverev, the highly rated young German who is the recipient of another wildcard. James Ward will likely move into the top 100 if he can win his opening round match but the draw wasn’t too kind to him, pairing him with 6th seed Feliciano Lopez. They have met before on a hard court, the Spaniard winning in three sets at Indian Wells last year.
A losing finalist two years running, Tomas Berdych will hope to go one better but will probably have to beat both men who picked up victories over him in the 2013 and 2014 finals respectively. Losing to Federer last year and Djokovic in 2013, the Czech has generally performed well here. Given his draw, another semi final looks on the cards. He begins against Jeremy Chardy, an opponent he has beaten on both occasions they have played including at this event in 2011. With Berdych possibly awaiting in round two, Simone Bolelli will need to be at his best if he wants to pick up a second top 10 win in 2 weeks. The Italian, who defeated Milos Raonic in Marseille, faces qualifier Lucas Pouille first up.
With an 0-4 record in 2015, Ernests Gulbis is there for the taking for Denis Istomin in his round one clash. Gulbis is still ranked 13 in the world but may see his ranking suffer if he fails to reverse this troubling slide in the recent weeks. Istomin’s form however is similarly poor, only winning a match in Montpellier this year. Sergiy Stakhovsky will hope to push on from his impressive run in Marseille, where he was just a set from making the final after already surprising Stan Wawrinka in the quarter finals.
David Goffin is listed as 8th seed and set to play wildcard Marcos Baghdatis in his opener assuming he has recovered from the back issues that saw his retirement in the first set of his match with Dominic Thiem in Marseille. A quarter finalist last year, Malek Jaziri will begin against the opponent that knocked him out at that stage. Philipp Kohlschreiber‘s third win in three outings against Jaziri earned him a place in the semi finals.
James McGee is the final wildcard choice and one that seems strange on the face of it. The 27 year old is ranked outside the top 200 and his only experience of a main draw is the 2014 US Open which he entered as a qualifier. The Irishman has yet to win a Challenger but has won a number of Futures events. It should be a good experience but Joao Sousa should be too strong for him. Andy Murray is the third seed here and will hope to go one better than his outing in 2012 where he was a losing finalist to Roger Federer. After a disappointing 2014 by his standards, he showed a lot to indicate that he was back to his best in Melbourne and will be disappointed at the way the back end of the match went. Murray begins against Gilles Muller, who pulled off two big wins in his last event in Rotterdam. Murray will hope not to go the way of Dimitrov and Goffin and instead make it 2-0 against the Luxembourg player in ATP play.
The final quarter sees a rematch of the 2007 final with six times champion Roger Federer playing two times losing finalist Mikhail Youzhny. The Russian was seeded at the event last year but struggled badly at times last year and now finds himself outside the top 50. With an 0-15 record against Federer, it seems things won’t get any better for him this week. A Spanish lefty could be waiting in the second round but it is one that Federer has a slightly better record against. Federer is 5-0 against Fernando Verdasco, who faces Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in round one.
Roberto Bautista-Agut rounds off the seeds in the draw at 7 and will play Dominic Thiem first up. They have met once this year with the Spaniard winning in four sets at the Australian Open. The Spaniard is 6-5 on the year and most recently lost the semi final of Marseille to Gael Monfils. Richard Gasquet will come into this tournament full of confidence after taking the Montpellier title last time out, even if the final was cut short by retirement. The Frenchman is 4-1 against Andreas Seppi and 2-0 on hard but they have not played since 2012.
SF: Novak Djokovic def. Tomas Berdych
SF: Andy Murray def. Roger Federer
F: Novak Djokovic def. Andy Murray