ATP 500 Series Dubai Duty Free Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

We preview this week's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships set to take place between 26 February and 3 March. 

The 26th consecutive edition of this event was all set to feature newly crowned World Number One Roger Federer. He tantalized fans with the possibility of competing till the last moment, with Rafa Nadal set to return from an injury absence at Acapulco there was optimism he may look to defend ranking points here. 

But alas, the seven-time champion has withdrawn late and left Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov as the top seed. Dimitrov will be hoping to prove that his striking defeat to Federer in Rotterdam was merely a blip in what has been a fairly upward trajectory of late for him. Lucas Pouille leads the bottom half of a draw that isn’t exactly bursting with superstar names. 

Past Winners
2017: Andy Murray
2016: Stan Wawrinka
2015: Roger Federer
2014: Roger Federer
2013: Novak Djokovic

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First Quarter- Seeded Players- Grigor Dimitrov 1, Phillip Kohlschrieber 6
Top seed Grigor Dimitrov should sail comfortably through his quarter of the draw, though the way he capitulated against Roger Federer in Rotterdam seemed to suggest some lingering injury doubts. Robin Haase looms in the second round while Phillip Kohlschrieber- the indefatigable sad face of men’s tennis- will be his likely quarterfinal opponent. Kohlschrieber could be a dark horse this week, with several encouraging performances recently. Though he lost to Federer in Rotterdam, he was excellent and pushed Federer to the limits in both sets. While Dimitrov is clearly the favourite to progress, don’t be surprised if the German springs a surprise. 

Second Quarter- Seeded Players- Roberto Bautista-Agut 3, Richard Gasquet 5
Just at first glance, this quarter looks highly competitive. Bautista-Agut hasn’t exactly been handed the kindest draw, with first round opponent Mayer followed by either Sousa or young French talent Herbert. Further long you have potentially Benoit Paire or Richard Gasquet in a quarter-final. Gasquet seems omnipresent of late and will be hoping to build on a solid start to the season, which included that final run in Montpellier. For some reason I just don’t see Bautista-Agut advancing from this section. Joao Sousa could be a force in the top half of the draw while Gasquet looms large in the bottom. 


Third Quarter- Seeded Players- Filip Krajinovic 7, Damir Dzumhur 4
This quarter seems to me the weakest, with neither Filip Krajinovic nor Damir Dzumhur consistent enough to invest too much confidence. The ever colourful entertainer Marco Bagdhatis is in there, with journeyman Victor Troicki highlighting what a marginal quarter this one is. While Dzumhur is the highest rated player here, Krajinovic has been steadily improving and would be my pick of the fancied names to progress. 

Fourth Quarter- Seeded Players- Yuichi Sugita 8, Lucas Pouille 2
Lucas Pouille has enjoyed an extremely encouraging start to the year that perhaps surprisingly sees him seeded second this week. He was brilliant in Montpelier, going down to Ricard Gasquet in the final, before losing to Karen Khachanov in the Open 13 final. He has a tricky opening tie against Ernst Gulbis to contend with, while the threatening figure of Khachanov once again looms large in this quarter. Sugita is the type of player who will exploit any complacency on the Frenchman’s side. Perhaps the Japanese would be the safe bet in this section. 

Potential Upset Watch

Karen Khachanov 7/20 vs Denis Istomin 21/10
Khachanov just won the Open 13 event and he understandably is the favourite here. But my experience tells me that young players are often vulnerable in the wake of victory, especially against a journeyman pro like Denis Istomin. 

Richard Gasquet 4/10 vs Borna Coric 19/10
I could sell this one either way really. Conventional wisdom dictates that Gasquet should prevail, especially considering the form he has generated. The Frenchman is prone to physical lapses however, and has been quite active recently, increasing the chances of an upset. 

Roberta Bautista-Agut 1/6 vs Florian Mayer 15/4
Bautista-Agut’s 2017 was overshadowed by compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, with Carreno-Busta reaching the US Open semi-finals. Despite the fact that he won in Auckland, the persistent Mayer represents terrific value at 15/4. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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