Defending champion Roger Federer will face two-time former finalist Mikhail Youzhny in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
That is certain to be a match that the six-time champion will treat with extreme caution, with his Russian opponent totally at home at an event he is playing for the 14th consecutive time.
Federer will be anxious to avoid another opening round defeat, following his 2008 upset at the hands of Andy Murray, against an opponent who has an outstanding record in Dubai. He defeated Rafael Nadal in 2004, and in 2007 he beat both Nadal and Tomas Berdych on his way to the final before losing to Federer. He reached the final again in 2010, when he stretched Novak Djokovic to three sets.
Top seed, world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic plays Vasek Pospisil in his opening match, and appears to have a far more comfortable path through the week than second-seeded Federer, with no less than three qualifiers in his half of the draw.
However, it also includes recent two-time finalist and number four seed Tomas Berdych, who begins against Jeremy Chardy. The Czech is in great form this year, reaching the final in both Doha and Rotterdam as well as the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Third seed Andy Murray returns to Dubai for the first time since reaching the 2012 final, and the Australian Open runner-up will play Gilles Muller in the first round. He is seeded to meet Federer in the semi-finals.
“Once again we are delighted to welcome so many of the world's top players to Dubai, with four of the top five competing for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “We are guaranteed great excitement from the very first round, as Roger Federer begins his quest for an incredible seventh title here against an opponent who has claimed several of the biggest wins of his career here. It will be fascinating to see what the outcome will be.”
The doubles also provides great entertainment every year, and this time there is an added bonus.
“As well as awarding wild cards in the singles to Marcos Baghdatis, Alexander Zverev and James McGee, we have given doubles wild cards to Roger Federer, who will partner Michael Lammer, and Novak Djokovic, who will play with Laslo Djere,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak. “It is fantastic news that two of the greatest ever to have played the game will compete in both singles and doubles, giving their many fans even more opportunity to see them in action.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, takes place between 23rd and 28th February.
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are still available for the first three days. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament v