After some high-octane tennis in the WTA event last week, the 28th edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is all set to get under way from February 24 as Novak Djokovic makes his return to the ATP World Tour for the first time since winning his eighth Australian Open title.
The ATP 500 event has always been a popular stop for the creme of men's tennis with Roger Federer claiming a record eight titles on the courts of the Aviation Club Tennis Centre, followed by Djokovic who has four.
This year, the Swiss maestro won't come to defend his title having undergone an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. In his absence, the top-seeded Djokovic is the biggest name in the 32-player field that has Stefanos Tsitsipas as the second seed.
With his last title glory coming way back in 2013, it won't be wrong to say that the World No. 1 would be leaving no stone unturned in order to lay his hands on the glittering trophy for the fifth time. Two years after his fourth title, the Serb did reach the final in 2015 but was stopped by a highly motivated and spirited Federer who refused to make any mistake.
This time with the 20-time Grand Slam champion missing from the draw, Djokovic potentially has a more hassle-free path to glory. Having rested and rejuvenated himself since his Melbourne heroics three weeks ago, he is expected to produce the deadly form that took him to his 17th Grand Slam.
Starting off his title quest against Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri, Djokovic could face the first possible challenge in the form of seventh seed Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals, at least on paper. The Russian turned the tables on Djokovic in a thrilling final at the Paris Masters in 2018 and knows how to get the better of the Serb. But with the latter arriving in Dubai on a two-match losing streak, the chances of an upset win this time look bleak.
It is the third seed Gael Monfils, though, who could pose some threat to Djokovic. For the World No. 9, February traditionally remains his most productive month. This year was no exception as he thrived on the courts of Montpellier and Rotterdam, taking both the indoor titles. But with Djokovic having a lopsided 16-0 record in their head-to-head record, Monfils would need to pull off a herculean effort to get his first win over the Serb.
In the other half of the draw, all eyes would be on second seed Tsitsipas. He missed out on tasting success last year thanks to Federer's brilliance. This year he will have all the momentum with him after triumphing in Marseille on Sunday. With that said, the 21-year-old Greek ace needs to be wary of a few names lurking in his section of the draw.
World No. 30 Hubert Hurkacz has always made it tough for him and it was no different in their most recent showdown at Rotterdam this month, where the Pole went on to take a set. Their second-round meeting in Dubai, which looks likely to happen, would thus be nothing short of a blockbuster.
Fifth seed and 2018 champion Roberto Bautista Agut is the likely name Tsitsipas would meet in the quarter-finals and the latter would need to summon his best form in this face-off.
Fourth seed Fabio Fognini or sixth seed Andrey Rublev could take on the World No. 6 in the semi-finals. While Tsitsipas historically never faced any hassle in beating Fognini in their two meetings so far, it is Rublev who could make things interesting. The 14th-ranked Russian beat Tsitsipas in their last clash at the 2019 US Open and with two titles under his belt already this year, he would go all out to try and make the Dubai final for the very first time.
Here's all you need to know about the ATP Dubai Tennis Championships 2020 Schedule:
Tournament: Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships 2020
Category: ATP 500
City: Dubai, UAE
Venue: Aviation Club Tennis Centre
Prize money: $2,950,420
Tournament schedule: February 24-March 1, 2020
Defending champion: Roger Federer
Where to watch the matches in India?
The ATP Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships 2020 matches will be telecast live on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD from Monday, February 24, 2020.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships live stream details:
Live Stream will be available on Sony Liv.