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04 March 2024

The king is back: on a mission

By Ahmad Lala



The men now get their turn in the sun as the Barclays Dubai Men’s Open gets under way on Monday.


The big question on the minds of many fans ahead of the tournament will be: has a chink been found in Roger Federer’s usually unbreachable armour?


The straight-set loss to third-seed Novak Djokovic in January’s Australian Open semi-final would have left his fans gasping in astonishment and his opponents with joy.


But Federer is not overly concerned about the loss and, despite having not played a tournament since, the World No1 admits he is more curious about who he is set to meet here.


“I’m feeling fine and I’m playing well in practice,” Federer exclusively told Emirates Business. “But it’s going to be interesting to see how the draw comes out, obviously that’s important knowing who I’m playing.


“Then hopefully I get started well and get into the tournament; but the draw here is very difficult so it’s not going to be an easy one to win,” said the Swiss star, exuding an aura of confidence. 


The semi-final defeat, which ended Federer’s record run of 10 consecutive Grand Slam final appearances, signalled that the enterprising Djokovic is rapidly improving and is a serious threat for the two players above him.


However, Federer claims that he has not pin-pointed anyone specific as a threat to him and that there are several players he is wary of.


“[Rafael] Nadal, Djokovic, [Andy] Roddick, there’s [Nikolay] Davydenko; actually many of the top 10 players are here so anyone can win the tournament,” explained the friendly Basel-born player, who this month was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a fourth consecutive time.


Federer has lost before in the past and always come back stronger – not good news for his opponents here, where he has won four times in past five years.


Dubai is also the adopted home of the impeccable Federer who uses the excellent facilities and privacy to tune up his game.


And what the loss means, in the words of one British broadsheet scribe, is that: “Federer can no longer be relied on to beat his opponents playing left-handed with a frying pan”.


Hard-working No2 seed Nadal, a winner here in 2006, and the fast-improving Djokovic may have something different to say to that. Together they will represent Federer’s biggest threat here – but when you consider the results in the women’s event, lose focus for even a second and almost everyone in the star-studded draw is capable of an upset victory.


Fourth seed Davydenko is an unpredictable player whose career has been marred with match-fixing allegations, but his talents are not to be doubted. Top British seed Andy Murray has also been in reasonable form this year and is one to watch for a surprise.


Although a rematch between Djokovic and Federer will be a mouth-watering prospect. Djokovic will be keen to prove the win was no fluke and the Swiss, with 12 Grand Slam titles, will want to solidify his dominance in the sport.
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