Five of the world’s top ten players are in Dubai for the ATP event next week. Apart from the highlights of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro in attendance, the overall quality of the draw is actually quite weak. Noteworthy for British tennis fans is that James Ward has received a wildcard into the main draw. Let’s take a look at the draw…
Novak Djokovic will make his first appearance on the ATP tour since a surprising loss to the eventual Australian Open champion, Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. This is only Djokovic’s second event of 2014 and it will be an important tournament for him to get matches under his belt before the Indian Wells-Miami double. His first match will be against Denis Istomin, who he defeated in straight sets at this year’s Australian Open. That match was memorable for some tremendous shot-making from Istomin in the third set (see the video below). Djokovic is projected to meet Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals. The Russian player, who meets Michal Przysiezny in the first round, has made a lacklustre start to the year with just one win out of five matches. He was ill before the Australian Open, but since then, Iam not sure what has happened to him. The draw is definitely there for him to pick up some wins if he can regain some form. James Ward opens up against Teymuraz Gabashvili in the first round, which is definitely winnable.
Djokovic could meet Roger Federer in the semi-finals, which is the most exciting eventuality of this ATP 500 draw. Federer opens against Benny Becker and will then play either Radek Stepanek or Michael Russell in the second round. The Swiss maestro enjoyed a strong start to the year down under with a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open. He has looked much sharper and healthier so far this year and on paper, looks like a shoe in for the semi-finals. Dmitry Tursunov is the highest ranked player in his quarter, who has a 4-6 W-L record in 2014 so far.
The third quarter is headlined by Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Berdych won his first title in over a year in Rotterdam last weekend, which should have given him a great deal of confidence. He opens up against a qualifier. I have tipped Tsonga to do well on many occasions this year, but to no avail. His form has been reasonable in 2014 with his two losses coming against come against Federer and Marin Cilic. He has reached the final in Marseille this week, which I don’t think will help his chances in Dubai.
The final quarter features Juan Martin del Potro, who remains a bit of a mystery so far in 2014. I tipped big things of the huge Argentine, but the wrist remains a concern. He will play the wildcard, Somdev Devvarman in the first round and could meet Igor Sijsling in the second round, who had an excellent run in Rotterdam reaching the semi-finals. Philipp Kohlschreiber is the second seed in this quarter although he could face stiff opposition in the second round from either Andreas Seppi or Florian Mayer, both solid players.
1st Round Predictions: Djokovic to beat Istomin in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy), Ward to beat Gabashvili in 3 sets, Youzhny to beat Przysiezny in 2 sets, Federer to beat Becker in 2 sets, Brands to beat Rosol in 2 tight sets, Dodig to beat Stakhovsky in 3 sets, Mayer to beat Seppi in 2 tight sets, Sijsling to beat Jaziri in 2 sets and Del Potro to beat Devvarman in 2 sets