Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dubai preview

Courtesy: Fanhouse

Injury might be denying Andy Murray the chance to earn redemption in Dubai this week - but the court returns of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at least offer the prospect of the latest instalment of the second biggest rivalry in men's tennis.

Djokovic's Australian Open triumph over Murray last month has made it a three-horse race at the summit of the men's game with Federer and Rafael Nadal's long-running duopoly now under threat from the Serb.

This could be the 21st meeting between Djokovic and Federer and, despite holding the edge at 13-7 in their head-to-heads, the Swiss will be out for revenge after losing to the 23-year-old in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last month.

The World No. 3 arrives in Dubai for the lucrative event the defending champion and, although seeded second behind Federer, he is the man with the early-season momentum.

It is a tournament which Federer, making his return after a three-year absence, has historically thrived at too, however, at what is his 'second home'. Federer, who lives in Dubai when not in Switzerland and makes it the base for most of his training camps, has already won the 500 event, which is viewed as a key event in preparation for the first major Masters events of the year in North America, four times.

With Murray sidelined with a wrist injury and Nadal still nursing a torn leg muscle, it would be a major surprise if the pair weren't to contest next weekend's final.

However, there are potential stumbling blocks standing in their way with Mikhail Youhzny, Tomas Berdych and Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Murray in the Rotterdam Open less than a fortnight ago, among the opposition lying in wait.

But it is Djokovic and Federer which the sheiks, and the rest of the world, will really want to see.


Will Djokovic have ever entered a tournament feeling more confident? The reigning champion and form player in men's tennis so far this year after adding the first Grand Slam of the year to his Davis Cup triumph with Serbia at the end of 2010.


He might still be the main box-office draw and have the edge over Djokovic in the world rankings, but Federer's semi-final defeat to Djokovic Down Under has left him needing to answer fresh question marks over whether his best days are now behind him.


On his day, last year's Wimbledon finalist has proven he can be a match for anyone. The 23-year-old is yet to fulfil his potential but there is a suspicion 2011 could be his year. Neither Federer or Djokovic will fancy playing him.

LAST SEASON: Djokovic defeated Youzhny 7–5 5–7 6–3 to claim his 17th career title and second consecutive Dubai Tennis Championship.

Federer insists he arrives in form and is determined to mark his return to action in Dubai with a victory:

"I'm coming to Dubai with a spring in my step. Regaining the number one ranking (from Nadal) is important for me, but I'm really looking to win tournaments - though it's always nice to do so beating the top guys.

"I'm healthy and playing well. Sometimes after a Grand Slam you are just exhausted, that was not the case this time after losing to Novak. I feel great and that's a plus for me. The season is very long and you cannot be too brutal on yourself after a loss.

'I'm playing well, I had a good end to last season. I think I've had some of the best for anyone over the past six months. I beat Djokovic three times at the end of last season (Shanghai, Basle, London) but that gets lost in the shuffle."

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