Roger Federer bid for a 100th career title will start with a first-round clash against Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week.
The Swiss seven-time Dubai champion is back in the Emirates for the first time since 2017, and is looking to lift his first trophy here since 2015.
Here are the main talking points surrounding the men’s draw in Dubai.
TOUGH PATH TO 100
If Federer does indeed secure his 100th title in Dubai, he may have to navigate a tough path to do it. His road to the dhow boat trophy could look like this: R1 Kohlschreiber, R2 Fernando Verdasco, QF Milos Raonic, SF Karen Khachanov/Borna Coric, F Stefanos Tsitsipas/Kei Nishikori/Marin Cilic.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 22, 2019
YOUNG GUNS IN FULL FORCE
A quartet of the best 23-and-under players are in contention this week in the form of fourth-seeded Khachanov, fifth-seeded Tsitsipas, sixth-seeded Coric and eighth-seeded Daniil Medvedev. Expect them to cause some serious trouble for the veterans at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
A few players will be making their maiden appearances in Dubai, including Nishikori and Raonic, who have surprisingly never played here before. Cilic will be making his first showing since 2010.
ROUND ONES TO WATCH
Third-seeded Cilic has a tricky opener against Frenchman Gael Monfils, who won Rotterdam earlier this month while Federer has a tough challenge against Kohlschreiber, whom he practiced with here just two days ago. Wildcards Mohamed Safwat and Marcos Baghdatis will face off in what is expected to be a loud, well-attended affair, with both of them popular figures in Dubai, while Khachanov has a challenging start against Beijing champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. Top-seeded Nishikori got the talented but erratic Benoit Paire as his opener.
Cilic jokes: Let’s repeat the draw 😂
Faces Monfils in R1.#DDFTennis
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 23, 2019
UNSEEDED PLAYERS TO WATCH
World No. 23 Monfils will have many eyes on him in his first round against Cilic, while two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych, who is up to 71 in the world following a long back injury lay-off. The Czech has been in fine form so far this season, amassing an 11-4 win-loss record, that includes a final showing in Doha, fourth round at the Australian Open, and semis in Montpellier. Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut is also one to watch. The Spaniard reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Melbourne last month and started 2019 by lifting the trophy in Doha.
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