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22 February 2024

Djokovic set for ATP return in Dubai

At the draw for the Dubai Tennis Championships at Aviation Club on Saturday (from left) George Horan (President DDF), Philipp Kohlschreiber, Martin Klizan , Viktor Troicki, Colm McLoughlin (Executive Vice Chairman, DDF), Salah Tahlak (Tournament Director), Abdul Rahman Falaknaz (Vice President, Tennis Emirates), Gerry Armstrong (ATP Supervisor), Sinead El Sibai (Vice President Marketing, DDF) with DDF hostesses and tournament mascots. (Supplied)

By Agencies

After decompressing at home with the family in Monte Carlo in the wake of his sixth Australian Open title, unbeatable Novak Djokovic is primed for a return to the courts at the Dubai Tennis Championships starting on Monday.

The world number one who owns four titles at the Aviation Club (2009-2011 and 2013), will take the top seeding ahead of French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and number three Tomas Berdych.

Novak has two wild cards and a qualifier in his quarter of the draw, along with the threat of two-time Dubai finalist Feliciano Lopez and the always dangerous Tommy Robredo, who is his first round opponent.

Missing from the hardcourt field is Roger Federer, winner of the last two editions, and Andy Murray, who remains at home with his family after the birth of his daughter this month.

Djokovic arrived early in the sun-soaked emirate from the European winter and promptly hit the practise courts, pausing for a photo session at a massive water park close to his suite at the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel.

The Serb who lost the 2015 final to Federer will be keen to keep the winning 2016 momentum on his side as he opens play against Spain's Tommy Robredo, whom he has beaten in six of eight meetings.

"No doubt that I'm playing the best tennis of my life in last 15 months," Djokovic said after Melbourne. "Everything is going well privately, as well.

"I became a father and husband, I have a family, so I feel like I'm at the point in my life where everything is working in harmony."

Wawrinka returns to Dubai for the first time since 2008 and will be looking for his first victory here.

Second seed Wawrinka could also face a qualifier in the second round if he can defeat Sergiy Stakhovsky and the qualifier overcomes Teymuraz Gabashvili

The Swiss player's game has stalled since winning in Chennai to start the season as he went out in the Australian Open fourth round and lost in the Marseille quarter-finals to France's Benoit Paire.

Berdych, a two-time finalist, was put out by Djokovic in the semi-finals a year ago. The Czech is seeking his first trophy since winning Stockholm last autumn and begins in the first round with Joao Sousa of Portugal.

Joker in the pack for the week will be Nick Kyrgios, whose explosive no-holds-barred game will be on display for the first time in the city-state.

The colourful and controversial Australian ranked 41st, will begin his debut as he faces seventh seed Martin Klizan, winner of the Rotterdam title a week ago over Gael Monfils.

Two young guns are part of the 32-man draw, with South Korea's Chung Hyeon facing Andreas Seppi and Croatian Borna Coric taking on Jiri Vesely to start with.

“There are some very interesting first round matches to enjoy, with Novak Djokovic facing Tommy Robredo and two very much in-form players, Martin Klizan and Nick Kyrgios, meeting in what is certain to be a tremendously competitive battle,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.

“Wild cards have been given to Marsel Ilhan from Turkey, Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri and Yuki Bhambri from India, and we look forward to seeing them perform against what will be formidable opposition,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.

The ATP event begins on Monday February 22 and continues until February 27.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.