Dubai Duty Free Open: Time for duels in the desert

Dubai Open is all set to celebrate its 25th anniversary

Dubai Open is all set to celebrate its 25th anniversary

Image courtesy: By Omeiryusuf at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / File size and image quality reduced from original

We are approaching the last week of February and it’s time that we witnessed a few great hard court duels in the desert. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships ATP 500 event marks the beginning of a hard court season featuring the Indian Wells-Miami masters series. While the talent pool at the Mexican event at Acapulco is being talked about a lot, the event at Dubai, just like in any other year, is loaded with stars too. Participating in the 25th edition of the tournament are 3 top 10 players and 7 top 20 players in all. Marquee players include the world no. 1 Sir Andy Murray, the Australian Open champion Roger Federer and his fearsome compatriot and 3-time slam champion Stan Wawrinka.

As a preparation for witnessing the Dubai Open again, let us recall some of its recent history.

Federer’s dominance at Dubai open since 2003

Distribution of titles at Dubai since 2003

Distribution of titles at Dubai since 2003

Federer has a proud record at Dubai Open featuring 7 titles from 2003 to 2015. He has played memorable matches here against his fiercest rivals. Given that he has reasserted his excellence with the Australian Open title, you could actually say he is the favourite to win the tournament. Will anyone be able to stop him? Certainly, Stan Wawrinka can pull off an upset. So can the world number one Andy Murray who will be looking to find his range again.

The field this time around

Sir Andy Murray is still to capture his maiden title at Dubai Open. So, he will be looking at achieve just that as he desperately needs to win a title now. The only players in the players list who have ever won the event are Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. Stan Wawrinka is the defending champion and will give his best to defend his title. After all, Roger Federer needed 5 sets to fend him off in the semis of Oz Open. Federer has a lot of placebo concerning Dubai. He has won 7 titles here and has had beaten both Murray and Wawrinka here before. He should be in the rhythm to do a good run here.

Young players on the radar will be Lucas Pouille and Daniil Medvedev. They have given people quite some hope concerning their prospect and it bears watching if any of them could give us a surprise run.

The only Emirati (or Asian) in the players list is 35 year old wildcard holder Omar Alawadhi of the UAE who will make his 13th appearance at the event. He has never won a match in the main draw of the event but it won’t stop the crowd from cheering him on for achieving that.

Wawrinka on a mission to defend his title

Stan Wawrinka won the Dubai Open for the first time in his career in 2016. He has had a decent start to the year. He was close to reaching the final at Oz Open. Among the players participating in this event, only Roger Federer has fared better this year. He will be backing himself to repeat his victory here. But, he will have to work for it shall he face an inspired Murray or a red-hot Federer in the final. It’s not going to be easy.

Fantastic Federer-Murray semifinal on the cards

The Federer vs. Murray head-to-head at Dubai is tied at 1-1. With Roger placed in Murray’s half of the draw now, there is plenty of chance that we see a Federer-Murray blockbuster semi. For now, it shall be the tiebreaker for their even head-to-head record at Dubai. It will also be their first match in about a year and a half. Keeping these numbers aside, this will be a test for Andy Murray in that it will be a reality check for his form.  Wait for it.

Tipping the favourite

Any of the top three seeds (Murray, Wawrinka or Federer) could win the tournament. Stan would benefit from not having to face Federer in the semis in that it will save him a lot of fatigue before the final. Murray will be looking to make a statement. However, Roger has to be considered the slight favourite considering the form that he is in.

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