The Dubai Tennis Championships are about to get underway, and it brings huge field with it. Not huge in quantity, but huge in quality. A combined 208 ATP World Tour titles have been won by the players in the field. Sure, Roger Federer makes up 99 of these, however that still leaves a whopping 109 from the rest of the field. 23 countries are being represented amongst the main draw field before qualifiers are placed, making this tournament the highest-represented field we have seen this season on the ATP Tour.
With the names in the field here, this draw was always going to be awesome. All top 8 seeds could win this tournament on their day, as well as a handful of players who are unseeded here.
1st-seeded, Kei Nishikori, has drawn the tricky Frenchman, Benoit Paire first up. Nishikori owns the H2H 5-2, although that is split 2-2 on hard courts. The 5th seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas, is fresh off his second ATP Tour title this past week in Marseille, where he did not drop a set all tournament. He has drawn Matt Ebden in the first round, and would be very content with his quarter of the draw.
Marin Cilic has drawn the nightmare first-round-floater here. Gael Monfils looks to be in some of the best form of his career. Having won arguably the biggest title of his life in Rotterdam, the enigmatic Frenchman actually enjoys a 3-0 H2H record against Cilic & will be extremely confident coming in to this match. The other seed in this quarter is the 8th-seeded, Daniil Medvedev. The Russian is enjoying, what looks to be, a career best year. 14-3 on the year, and a semi final & title in his last two outings have him here as someone who could make a real run at it.
The second half of the draw kicks off with the #8 seed, Borna Coric. Coric will play the Open 13 finalist, Mikhail Kukushkin, first up. Kukushkin made it to the final in Marseille without dropping a set. Impressive victories over Denis Shapovalov & Andrey Rublev were amongst his run there, before losing to top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2 tight sets. Last year’s winner, Roberto Bautista Agut, and 2-time finalist here, Tomas Berdych, feature in this quarter of the draw. They have drawn Wild Card hopeful, Ramkumar Ramanathan, & Rio semi-finalist, Aljaz Bedene, respectively. The #4 seed, Karen Khachanov, is quietly in the midst of a slump to start the season. He is 4-4 on the year & is riding a 3-game losing streak. He faces Nikoloz Bashilashvili in the first round.
The final quarter of the draw here features arguably the greatest male tennis player of all time & #2 seed here in Dubai, Roger Federer. Federer is making his return to action after suffering a shock 4th round loss in Melbourne to Stefanos Tsitsipas. He will face Philipp Kohlschreiber first, a man who he has a 13-0 H2H record over. In fact, Federer has a 36-3 H2H record over this whole quarter of the draw. The only 3 losses in that record have come against the 7th seed, Milos Raonic, whom he could likely see in the quarter final.
On Upset Alert here we have the in-form Gael Monfils to knock out the 3rd seeded Marin Cilic in the first round. One more that wouldn’t shock the world would be for Georgian, Nikoloz Basilashvili, to beat the out-of-sorts Karen Khachanov.
One To Watch
The One To Watch in Dubai is Daniil Medvedev. As mentioned earlier, Medvedev has started the year red-hot. A 14-3 record to start the season, including wins over Raonic, Monfils & Tsonga, he has been very impressive. His only 3 losses of the year were a final in Brisbane (Nishikori), 4th round of the Australian Open (Djokovic) & semi final in Rotterdam (Monfils). All 3 of the players who have beaten him this season won the respective tournaments.
In saying all of this, I’m actually tipping the 7th seed, Milos Raonic, to win here. To do this, he will likely have to beat 7-time Dubai champion, Roger Federer, which will be no easy feat. I’m tipping the shock though. The half of the draw itself, Federer aside, isn’t too bad, especially his quarter. Let’s see what happens at the Dubai Tennis Championships.