Two-time Dubai runner-up Tomas Berdych admits it is “unusual” to see the number 14 typed next to his name in the world rankings but he’s not reading too much into it as he prepares for his 11th campaign at the Aviation Club.
The draw for the 25th anniversary edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was revealed on Saturday, with top seed Andy Murray getting Tunisian world No47 Malek Jaziri in the opening round.
The Scottish world No1 was drawn in the same half as record seven-time champion Roger Federer, the No3 seed, while second-seeded title holder Stan Wawrinka shares the bottom half of the draw with fourth-seeded Gael Monfils.
Federer’s first match since he captured a record-extending 18th grand slam title at the Australian Open last month will be against Frenchman Benoit Paire in the opening round in Dubai, and he could face his preseason practice partner, the seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille in the quarter-finals.
World No3 Wawrinka commences his title defence journey against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur, with fifth-seeded Berdych a possible last-eight opponent.
Monfils opens against Egyptian wildcard Mohamed Safwat and could get sixth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters.
Berdych, who is at his lowest ranking since May 2010, lost two finals in Dubai: in 2013 to Novak Djokovic and in 2014 to Roger Federer.
“It’s one of the conditions that I like, fast courts, it’s usually sunny and bright, so the ball is also flying quite a lot, so these are conditions that I like and I think they’re going to be here again, it’s just a few unusual days (of rain), so it’s going to be all good,” Berdych told Sport360 on Saturday.
The luck of the draw pit Berdych against Federer as early as the third round at the Australian Open last month and the Czech admits getting knocked out early at a tournament where he had reached the quarter-finals or better on his previous six visits was not ideal.
“The early loss in Australia, unfortunately playing Roger that early, it’s a bit of missing a good portion of some points from the slam. But that’s how it is. The season is long, I just need to keep going, just working on my game and it’s going to be all fine,” said the 31-year-old.
Is it weird having 14 typed next to his name after spending all those years inside the top-10?
“Yes absolutely it is, but it’s just how the system is. I missed the US Open and then I didn’t really play the level that I would like to. So let’s count everything the whole year, and see how it is. The guys around are doing pretty well. Yes, it’s unusual, but I just need to keep working hard again,” replied Berdych, who was hampered by appendicitis end of last season.
One player who is set to make his Dubai debut is Great Britain’s Dan Evans, who is enjoying a career-high ranking of No44 after reaching the final in Sydney to start the year and making the Australian Open fourth round.
Evans was drawn to face Germany’s Dustin Brown in the first round, with a potential last-16 showdown with Monfils.
The 26-year-old from Birmingham was ranked as low as 754 less than two years ago. He was perceived as a “wasted talent” by British press and accused of not working hard enough (he would say so himself).
“I think that’s what they used to say, I’d say now it’s not so much,” he told reporters in Dubai on Saturday.
“I’m maturing, you get an older and obviously find out that sooner or later you have stuff to pay for and you’ve got to win some matches otherwise it’s hard work. I’ve been enjoying it and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing now.
“It’s very up and down, but there’s other things in life than just tennis and obviously you had to explore them and see what they were like. They were not so good, tennis was a better option and it’s good to work hard and the rewards are good as I’m finding out now.”
Projected quarter-finals by seed
Andy Murray (GBR x1) v Gilles Muller (LUX x8)
Roger Federer (SUI x3) v Lucas Pouille (FRA x7)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x2) v Tomas Berdych (CZE x5)
Gael Monfils (FRA x4) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x6)
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The scene is set for the 25th edition of the historic ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships as the top players in the world get set to battle it out on the Hard Courts at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre.
One of the most popular events at the ATP World Tour 500 level, tennis in desert is destined to enthrall all tennis fanatics across the globe with a strong field.
To whet the appetite, Sport360 breaks down the facts, figures and stats from the tournament’s rich history.
1993 – The first edition of the Dubai Tennis Championships was played at the Aviation Club in 1993 as an ATP 250 event. Czech Karel Novacek was the winner of the inaugural edition, defeating Frenchman Fabrice Santoro in the final.
1996 – The event was played at the newly erected Dubai Tennis Stadium, which can accommodate 5,000 spectators.
2001 – ATP upgraded the tournament from a 250 level to a more reputable 500 level event.
11 – Times in 12 years the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has been voted as the best ATP World Tour 500 Tournament (2003-06, 2008-14). Dubai also won the award in 1998 (when the event was an ATP 250 level).
7 – Federer is the all-time leader with 7 titles at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre (2003-05, 2007, 2012, 2014-15). Djokovic, who has won the event on 4 occasions (2009-11, 2013), follows him. Roger and Novak are the only players to have won multiple titles in Dubai.
7 – Federer’s 7 titles in Dubai is second only to Nadal’s 9 titles in Barcelona; the record for the Most Titles at a Single ATP 500 event.
3 – Consecutive titles for Federer (2003-05) & Djokovic (2009-11) at the DTC; the record for consecutive titles in Dubai.
9 – Federer has played in a record 9 finals in Dubai (2003-07, 11-12, 14-15); the most finals in Dubai. This is also the record for the Most Finals at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Nadal (Barcelona)). Djokovic has reached 5 finals in Dubai (2009-11, 13, 15).
5 – Federer featured in 5 straight finals from 2003 to 2007; the record for consecutive finals in Dubai.
10 – Semi-Final Appearances for Federer (2003-07, 11-15); the most SFs at the DTC. Roger owns a 9-1 record in SF (only loss to Berdych – 2013).
8 – Djokovic has featured in 8 straight SFs at the DTC (2008-15); the record for SF streak at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Nadal (Barcelona)).
10 – Djokovic has featured in 10 straight QFs at the DTC (2007-16); the record for QF streak at a Single ATP 500 event (tied with Connors (Memphis) & Roddick (Memphis)).
47 – Federer’s won 47 matches at Dubai (most wins at DTC), which is behind Nadal’s record of 48 matches won in Barcelona – The record for the most match-wins at a Single ATP 500 event.
52 – Federer’s played 52 matches at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre; the record for most matches played at a Single ATP 500 event.
23 – Federer dropped just 23 games (in 5 matches) enroute to his victory in 2015 (7th Title); the record for the least games dropped enroute to winning the title in Dubai.
Oldest Winner – In 2015, Federer (33y 6m) became the oldest winner at the DTC when he defeated Djokovic in a pulsating final. In fact, the Swiss duo of Federer (2012, 14-15) & Wawrinka (2016) are also the only 30+ winners of the event.
Youngest Winner – In 2006, Rafael Nadal (19y 8m) became the youngest winner at the DTC when he defeated his great rival Federer in the final. Nadal is the only sub 20 winner of the event. Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero (21y) is the 2nd youngest winner of the event (2001 d. Marat Safin).
15 – Appearances for Russian Mikhail Youzhny in Dubai (2002-16), the all-time record for most appearances in Dubai. The Russian owns a 21-14 record including 2 Runner-up finishes (2007 l. to Federer & 2010 l. to Djokovic).
90.38% – Federer owns the best winning record at Dubai with a 90.38% winning record (47-5 Win-Loss). Roger is followed by Novak who owns an 85.71% winning record (36-6 Win-Loss).
19 – Federer managed to win 19 consecutive matches from 2003 to 2006, the best winning streak at the DTC. His run was ended by Nadal in the 2006 final. Djokovic won 18 matches from 2009 to 2012, before losing to Andy Murray in the 2012 SF.
3 – Only three players other Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic have won the event since Federer’s first title back in 2003 (d. Jiri Novak) – Rafael Nadal (2006), Andy Roddick (2008) & Stan Wawrinka (2016). Wawrinka’s win in 2016 ended a 7-year stranglehold on the Dubai title by Roger & Novak.
Younes El Aynaoui – is the only player from an Arab Country (Morocco) to make the final of the DTC (losing to Santoro in 2002).
33 – The 2010 final was the longest final played at the DTC, featuring 33 games. Djokovic got the better of Youzhny in the final – 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.
12 – The 2001 final was the shortest final in the tournament history, featuring only 12 games. Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero got the better of Russian Marat Safin in the final – 6-2, 3-1 RET. Safin was forced to retire due a back injury.
3 – World No.1 Murray is currently on a 3-ATP 500 title streak (winning in London, Beijing, Vienna (all in 2016)). He is on a 14-match win streak at ATP 500 level (last loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili at 2015 Washington).
4 – Federer is currently on a 4-ATP 500 title streak (on HARD) – winning in Dubai & Basel (2014- 15). This includes a 20-match win streak at ATP 500 level (on HARD) – last loss to Del Potro at 2013 Basel.
Dubai Title = Major Title/Final – Since 2003, the winner of the Dubai Tennis Championships has managed to win a major title or reach a major final in that season (except 2008 – Roddick and 2009 – Djokovic).
Money-Makers in the Desert – Roger’s the leader with close to $2.64 Million accumulated in prize money at the DTC. Novak has won close to $2.17 Million in prize money at the DTC.
$2.4 Million – The total prize money purse for the event with $523,330 on offer for the 2017 Winner..
Rain has been ever-present in Caroline Wozniacki’s matches for the past two weeks in Doha and Dubai and the Dane has been trying hard to face it all with a smile.
It is unusual to get that many consecutive days of rain here in the Gulf and it has definitely taken everyone by surprise.
“At this point, I was just, It’s me. I’m bringing the rain,” she joked after her quarter-final win on Thursday.
“You know, even in Doha and in Dubai, I come and it’s raining. I step on the court and it’s raining. I was, like, this is deja vu from Doha last week.
“At the same time, I’m, like, I have a winning record with this rain. Just bring it on. I’m ready for it.”
Dubai organisers have taken a new approach towards rain delays. On Friday, while the semi-final between Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina was briefly suspended, a musician with an acoustic guitar stepped on court and played a few songs for the crowd until the rain had stopped and the courts were dried off.
It was a smart move because most of the spectators stayed in their seats.
Wozniacki, who has now made both the Doha and Dubai finals this month, admits that backing up each win, with all the rain delays, over the past two weeks has been challenging.
“It’s just been all about getting the rest that I needed and just staying disciplined,” said the No10 seed. “When I’m out on court, not thinking about the past week or anything, just what I’m about to do out there.
“I think by now I know my body pretty well. I know when it’s feeling a little bit beat up. Honestly, I think today it was feeling really good. Yesterday was feeling better than the day before. I think the day before yesterday was when I had a small crisis in the body and I really had to pump myself up and just kind of fist pump to myself and kind of get myself going. After that, it’s been better. I think I have been getting some good sleep and good food. I think that’s helped it, for sure.”
Celebration time in Dubai
One of the nice things about the Dubai event is that for a few days, before the women’s week is over and the men’s week starts, you get the feeling that it is a combined tournament, since most of the ATP players have arrived already and are seen practicing on the outside courts while the WTA stars are wrapping up their tournament.
Roger Federer and Andy Murray have both been spotted around the grounds over the past couple of days and they enjoyed some beach tennis in front of Burj Al Arab hotel to celebrate the tournament’s 25th anniversary.
“I’m looking forward to playing, especially on the anniversary of 25 years here in Dubai,” said Federer, a seven-time champion here.
“It’s nice to be part of a tournament celebrating something. I’ve had some great years here in Dubai, I wanted to be in good shape and ready for the conditions so I came early this year. The players like this tournament so much, it’s well organized, and well run with good crowds, and with the hotel and everything on site it’s so convenient.”