ATP Dubai preview: Roger Federer vs Andy Murray semi-final on the cards
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is one of the two ATP 500 tournaments that mark the return of the biggest ATP stars next week. Dubai’s four-time champion Novak Djokovic might have switched his allegiance to Acapulco this year that definitely comes as a surprise to many but this prestigious Middle Eastern event, nonetheless, boasts of a strong line-up.
Headlining the field is the seven-time winner Roger Federer, coming fresh off his dream run to his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open after a six-month injury-induced layoff. Tennis fans all over the globe will be eager to see if the Swiss maestro can be inspired enough to continue his title-winning spree for the rest of the season as well.
Seeded third, the former World No. 1 kicks off his campaign against an opponent as tricky as the 41st Benoit Paire. Federer is said to still not have fully recovered from the leg injury that he sustained at Melbourne which is why the 35-year-old will be careful not to overexert himself at Dubai especially with the hectic Indian Wells-Miami swing up next.
After a potential meeting with a very familiar opponent – Mikhail Youzhny – in the second round, the legend is expected to square off against Lucas Pouille, the young Frenchman with whom he had practised in the off-season.
In the semi-finals, there is a potential blockbuster meeting between Federer and the top-seeded Andy Murray before the third seed comes face-to-face with the defending champion and second seed Stan Wawrinka in the final.
Murray starts off against Jaziri
Murray, who lost the 2012 final to Federer, for his part, has a hassle-free path to the last-four stage. He opens against the 47th ranked Malek Jaziri and then goes on to meet the winner of the first round encounter between Viktor Troicki and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
In the quarters, he can come up against the eighth seed Gilles Muller or the very talented Philipp Kohlschreiber ahead of the much-anticipated face-off with Federer.
The Scot will be looking for every opportunity to erase the Australian Open setback where he suffered a shock fourth round loss to the 50th ranked Mischa Zverev and get back to winning ways.
Wawrinka and Berdych in same quarter
Second seed Stanislas Wawrinka, fourth seed Gael Monfils and fifth seed Tomas Berdych are the top names huddled in the bottom half of the draw. Wawrinka kick off the defence of his title against the 79th ranked Damir Dzhumhur who made it to the quarter-finals of the Memphis Open last week. He has then the winner of the match between Jiri Vesely and Marcel Granollers as his next opponent.
Things get more interesting from the next round as he will likely be up against Berdych in the quarters. The Czech can definitely stretch the second seed but Wawrinka should be the favourite to emerge victorious having won his last six meetings with the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up.
Fourth-seeded Monfils, who bowed out in the Marseille quarterfinals this week, should be the possible semi-final candidate to take on the Swiss.
For Wawrinka, a summit clash with his more illustrious countryman presents a chance at avenging his narrow five-set semi-final loss at the Australian Open and he would very much be upbeat for it.