Roger Federer faces a difficult challenge as he seeks an incredible eighth title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week.
Seeded two in a field that includes nine of the world’s top 20, he plays another Tour veteran, Philipp Kohlschreiber, in the first round. And if he survives that hurdle he could find himself up against Fernando Verdasco, who went all the way to the final before losing to Andy Murray during his last Dubai appearance two years ago. Verdasco plays a qualifier in his opening round.
Top seed Kei Nishikori is making his Dubai debut and plays Benoit Paire in the first round, with a potential quarter-final against Australian Open sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas looming later.
But it is third seed Marin Cilic, who is playing in Dubai for the first time since 2010, who has the most intimidating opening match among the top contenders for the title. He has to tackle flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils, who earlier this month reached the semi-finals of the Sofia Open and followed that up by beating three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the Rotterdam final.
Fourth seed Karen Khachanov plays Nikoloz Basilashvili, fifth seed Tsitsipas plays Matthew Ebden, sixth seed Borna Coric opens against Mikhail Kukushkin, seventh seeded Milos Raonic plays Jan-Lennard Struff and eighth seed Daniil Medvedev will play a qualifier.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut has begun the 2019 season well, beating Novak Djokovic and Wawrinka on his way to winning the Doha title before reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. He begins the defence of his title against wild card Ramkumar Ramanathan and he could potentially meet Kukushkin, who he defeated in Melbourne, in the quarter-finals.
We are delighted to welcome both old faces and new to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Everyone will be keen to see if Roger Federer can win the title yet again, or if a new name will be added to one of the most sought after trophies on the ATP Tour.”
“We have enjoyed a fantastic women’s tournament and now look forward to another wonderful week of exciting competition as many of the top players from the ATP tour challenge for the title,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.