DUBAI // The men's event at the Dubai Tennis Championships could see a re-match of the Australian Open final as Roger Federer, the world No 1, was paired with Andy Murray, the man he beat in Melbourne last month, in the same half of the draw yesterday. Federer, winner of 16 grand slam finals, is scheduled to meet Murray, the world No 3, in the semi-finals.
The 32-player tournament, which suffered the late pull-out of American Andy Roddick last night through fatigue, will see six of the world's top-10 players battle for a share of the US$1.6 million (Dh5.9m) prize purse at the Aviation Club, starting tomorrow. Murray, who lost to the Swiss in the final of the 2008 US Open, before missing out on his mai-den grand slam title once more in Melbourne last month after facing a formidable Federer in the final, will meet a qualifier in the first round.
However, the UAE's solo flag-flier, Mahmoud-Nader Al Baloushi, saw any hopes he held of a potential dream match with Murray shattered after losing 6-2, 6-4 to Russian Igor Kunitisyn in the first round of qualifying yesterday. The Kuwaiti Mohammed Ghareeb will now be left to represent the Arab world and will be buoyed by the draw, which sees him start his campaign against an as yet unknown qualifier.
Federer, who spends three months of the year in the emirate and has left Dubai's annual ATP event a champion four times in previous years, will meet Frenchman Julien Benneteau, the world No 39, in the first round. Federer has not lost in the first round at the Aviation Club since Murray defeated him here in 2008. Marin Cilic, the strapping Croatian who recently entered the world's top 10, has been drawn against Arnaud Clement of France and could face Federer in the quarter-finals.
In the lower half of the draw the champion and second seed Novak Djokovic, the world No 2 who overcame David Ferrer to win his first Dubai title last year, will meet Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his opening match, but if the Serb can progress as expected he could face a potential quarter-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No 9, who has been awar-ded a wild-card. The Frenchman will play compatriot Michael Llodra in his first-round tie.