Five of the world’s top ten players including Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro are in Dubai for the ATP event next week. James Peeling takes a look at the draw.
Novak Djokovic will make his first appearance on the ATP tour since a surprising loss to the eventual Australian Open champion, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is only Djokovic’s second event of 2014 and it will be an important tournament for him to get matches under his belt before the Indian Wells-Miami double in March where big points are up for grabs. His first match will be against Denis Istomin, who he defeated in straight sets at this year’s Australian Open. Djokovic is projected to meet Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals. The Russian player, who meets Michal Przysiezny in the first round, has made a lacklustre start to the year with just one win out of five matches. The Brit, James Ward, who helped Great Britain beat the USA in Davis Cup action a few weeks ago, has a wildcard into the main draw and opens up against Teymuraz Gabashvili. This is a very winnable match.
Djokovic could meet Roger Federer in the semi-finals, which is the most exciting eventuality of this ATP 500 draw. Federer opens against Benjamin Becker in the first round. The Swiss world number eight enjoyed a strong start to the year down under with a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open. He has looked much sharper and healthier so far this year and on paper, should comfortably reach the semi-finals. Dmitry Tursunov is the highest ranked player in his quarter, who has a 4-6 W-L record in 2014 so far.
The third quarter is headlined by Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Berdych won his first title in over a year in Rotterdam last weekend, which should have given him a great deal of confidence. He opens up against a qualifier. Tsonga has struggled to find his best form this year suffering two losses to Federer (Australian Open, R4) and Marin Cilic (Rotterdam, R2). He has reached the final in Marseille this week where he will play Ernests Gulbis in the final; however this is unlikely to help his chances in Dubai.
The final quarter features Juan Martin del Potro, who remains an all-round concern with his wrist. He needs a solid performance here to start gathering attention around his tennis rather than his health. He will play the wildcard, Somdev Devvarman in the first round. Philipp Kohlschreiber is the second seed in this quarter although he could face stiff opposition in the second round from either Andreas Seppi or Florian Mayer, both solid players.
The winner of Dubai is most likely to come from a potential semi-final between Djokovic and Federer. However do not discount a confident Berdych, who can beat both Djokovic and Federer on his day.
Final Prediction: Djokovic d. Berdych
Pundit Arena, James Peeling.
Featured Image By Yann Caradec (Flickr: Novak Djokovic) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons