Federer draws former finalist at Dubai DFTC

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Defending his title: Roger Federer is ready to retain his Dubai Duty Free Tennis crown.

Two-time semi-finalist Richard Gasquet is back in Dubai for the first time in three years and said he is pain-free on Saturday at the draw, which pit defending champion Roger Federer and world No4 Andy Murray in the same half.

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Gasquet, who won his 11th career title in Montepellier two weeks ago, was forced to withdraw from the tournament in Marseille last week with a back problem.

But the former world No7 has been seen practicing in Dubai over the past two days and the talented Frenchman assures he is fit and ready to take on Italian Andreas Seppi – a winner over Federer at the Australian Open last month – in a tricky opening round.

“I’m feeling okay. I had some injuries in Montpellier, even though I won the tournament but I think now I’m feeling great. No pain,” the 28-year-old Gasquet said.

“Seppi is a good player, he’s very talented. He won against Roger Federer in the Australian Open so I know it will be tough for me. But I have a good chance to win so I will try my best.

“It’s good to be here before Indian Wells and Miami, since it’s outdoors too. It’s a great tournament, well-organised. I’ve played semi-finals here, so I will try to perform and why not go to the final?”

Top seed and four-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic will begin his campaign against Canadian world No60 Vasek Pospisil, and is drawn to potentially face sixth-seeded Feliciano Lopez in the quarters and two-time runner-up Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals.

World No2 Federer, a record six-time winner in Dubai, has Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny as his first round opponent, a rematch of their final here in 2007.

“Still, it’s a tough draw for me, but it’s too early to say anything because you never know, maybe after the match I will be happy with how I played,” said Youzhny.

“I think it’s tough to play well against Federer on any surface in any match.”

Third-seeded Murray, a finalist in Dubai in 2012, has a tough first round against big-hitting Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. 

The 31-year-old is in form having reached the fourth round at the Australian Open last month, the semi-finals in Sydney and has beaten the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin earlier this month in Rotterdam. 

Novak Djokovic (L), Roger Federer (C) and Andy Murray (R).

Dubai has been hit by a wild sandstorm and players have been practicing in tough conditions since their arrival on Friday.

“It’s always difficult to practice in these conditions but the tournament will start on Monday and I think it will be different conditions when we start,” said Gasquet.

Arab No1 Malek Jaziri will open against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch of their quarter-final last year, which the Tunisian lost.

​The wildcards have been awarded to Ireland’s James McGee, ex-Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and German up-and-comer Alexander Zverev.

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