Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships, Preview and Prediction: Roger Federer handed tough draw in quest for 100th title
- Federer begins his campaign against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Though two of the big three in men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are absent, this year’s Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships is not short of star attraction or firepower, the biggest draw being the Swiss maestro Roger Federer, who is in search of that elusive hundredth title.
Federer, who is seeded second, has been handed a very tough draw. Placed in the bottom half, his first match is against the German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber. Though Federer has an unblemished 13-0 record against Kohlschreiber, the German has the game to challenge the Swiss.
If Federer passes the German challenge in the first match, he would most likely meet another veteran, Fernando Verdasco, another player against whom he has never lost in six previous meetings. Like Kohlschreiber, Verdasco is a dangerous opponent, who would like to have at least one win over the great man before he draws curtains on his career.
Federer may face his first seeded opponent in the quarter-final stage, in the form of the seventh seed Milos Raonic. After a long recuperating process from injury, Raonic seems to be getting back to top gear. He has not set the tennis world on fire this year, but has played reasonably well, winning seven of ten matches thus far.
Assuming Federer reaches the semi-final stage, there are three possible contenders he could meet. One of them is last year’s winner, Roberto Bautista Agut who opens his title defense against the Indian wild card – Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Another contender is the fourth-seeded Russian youngster Karen Khachanov. Khachanov has endured a dip in form recently, having lost in the first round of his two most recent tournaments.
But the most probable contender for a spot in the semi-final in the bottom half is the sixth seed Borna Coric. The Croatian had a remarkable 2018 and he would like to make it a hat-trick of wins over Federer after his two victories last year!
Compared to Federer, the top seed Kei Nishikori looks to have gotten a much more favourable draw in the top half. His first round opponent is the volatile Benoit Paire, who is prone to self-destructing. His second round opponent could be the Polish world number 73 Hubert Hurkacz, who opens his campaign against a qualifier.
After the relatively easy first couple of matches, Nishikori may run into his first major challenge at the quarter-final stage, where he could possibly meet the fast-improving Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Assuming Nishikori becomes one of the semi-finalists from the top half of the draw, there could be three possible contenders for the spot of the other semi-finalist. Two of them ironically meet in the first round itself.
Whoever comes out the winner from the first round match between the third seed Marin Cilic and the Rotterdam Champion Gael Monfils, has a very good chance of going all the way to the semi-final. Another contender for a semi-final spot from the top half would be Daniil Medvedev who is having a stellar season.
Roger Federer defeats Borna Coric.
Kei Nishikori defeats Daniil Medvedev.
Final: Roger Federer defeats Kei Nishikori.