2020 ATP Dubai Tennis Championships preview: Djoker returns to Dubai as Fed Express rests

UNFORTUNATELY the stage that was set for the Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer rivalry to continue in Dubai has been stopped early with the Swiss Master pulling out of the next few tournaments due to injury. In an tournament with a past winners list that looks eerily similar to the Australian Open, the pair has won 12 between them, with the Swiss Master almost exclusively bringing home the trophy most years with a massive eight titles dating back to 2003. Federer is also reigning champion – winning his 100th ATP Tour title – but will be unable to retain the title, with Djokovic not competing in Dubai last year but he is here in 2020.


Novak Djokovic (SRB)

As the player who holds the second most titles on record, Djokovic not only has form here, but his scintillating performance at Melbourne Park has put him on a pedestal above his rivals, certainly on hard court early in the season. He is well rested after his eighth Australian Open title and will come here fresh, with the crowds no doubt hoping to see him take on some of the best young guns and in-form players in the world.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Reaching the final last year, Tsitsipas was in some kind of form early in 2019 after his run at Melbourne Park. He built on that form throughout the year to eventually triumph in the ATP Finals, becoming the first player to win both the ATP Finals and Next Gen Finals. Last year he knocked off Monfils and rising Pole Hubert Hurkacz before going down to Federer in the final. His form in 2020 has been mixed, having a crucial win over Alexander Zverev in the ATP Cup, but has otherwise only won two matches that were not a walkover. He would have gained confidence from his come-from-behind win over Hurkacz at Rotterdam, but falling to Aljaz Bedene in straight sets was disappointing.

Gael Monfils (FRA)

The most in-form player on tour right now, Monfils has been a busy boy when it comes to collecting silverware. Aged 33 now, the French veteran has no intention of slowing down, believing he can reach the top five for the first time in his career. A win here might move him a step closer, having not lost a match since bowing out to Australian Open finalist, Dominic Thiem in the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park. While he is yet to defeat a top 20 player throughout his victories at Montpellier and Rotterdam – where he successfully defended his title – to win eight straight matches against players of top 100 quality is admirable to say the least. His 6-2 6-4 win over 21st ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime might be the best of the lot and his confidence is through the roof.

Andrey Rublev (RUS)

A newcomer to Dubai having not played here in 2019, Rublev is one of the more in-form players upon entry. Like Monfils, Rublev has already collected two titles in 2020 at Qatar and Adelaide, then reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park, bundling out David Goffin on his way before going down to Zverev in the Round of 16. His most recent result was a quarter final loss to Filip Krajinovic, but he did knock off tricky players, Alexander Bublik and Nikoloz Basilashvili in the lead-up to that loss at Rotterdam.


Hubert Hurkacz (POL)

A developing young gun who is ready to take the next step, Hurkacz is now 23 and entering the prime of his career. He only has the one title to his name and is currently ranked 29th in the world. His form in 2020 looked good early with stunning wins over top 15 players, Thiem and Diego Schwartzman at the ATP Cup, as well as a 6-2 6-2 smashing of Borna Coric at the same event. He reached the semi-finals at Auckland, but then fell in straight sets to John Millman in Melbourne and unluckily copped Tsitsipas in the first round at Rotterdam. Hurkacz reached a quarter final here last year before going down to the Greek young gun in three sets.

Filip Krajinovic (SRB)

Coming in under an injury cloud, the Serbian world number 33 had to withdraw from Marseille but will hopefully be right to take the courts in Dubai. He played at both Montpellier and Rotterdam where he kept running into Monfils in the semi-finals and going down. He got closer in the second encounter at the World Tennis Tournament, losing 6-4 7-6, but showed some good form there by defeating the in-form Vasek Pospisil and Rublev back-to-back on his way to the final four. If he is fit, Krajinovic is often underrated, but at his best he can pose problems for the world’s best and while he was easily brushed aside by Federer in Melbourne, he can bounce back.

Karen Khachanov (RUS)

The 23-year-old Russian has had an up-and-down season thus far, but is still ranked 17th in the world, after reaching a career high eighth last year. He already has four titles to his name – all on hard court – but has not won one since his breakthrough ATP Masters 1000 victory in Paris back in 2018. Khachanov is 7-4 so far this season, and his consistency has been questionable with losses to Millman and Daniel Evans, but his most recent win came against world number 11, Fabio Fognini at Rotterdam. The Italian has entered this tournament if he has recovered from injury, but Khachanov’s issue is against players who might not have the highest skill, but are dogged competitors who wear others down with their placement and work rate. If he can work on that aspect of his game, he will go far, but this field has a mix of both skilled players and workhorses.


Maric Cilic (CRO)

It seems a world away since the big serving Croatian was world number three. At 31-years-old he is coming to the twilight of his career but can still have some good years left, especially looking at compatriot, Ivo Karlovic who is running around at 40 with a similar gamestyle. Cilic has a bit more about him than Karlovic and remains a more potent threat, defeating world number nine Roberto Bautisa Agut in five sets at Melbourne Park after downing seeded Benoit Paire in a similarly epic contest the match before. Both players have signed up to compete in Dubai, and the Croatian is warming up in France for this tournament.

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