DUBAI // Marcos Baghdatis has never enjoyed the luck of the draw at the Dubai Tennis Championships. On his debut here in 2007, the Cypriot met Rafael Nadal in the opening round.
On his return in 2010, he found eighth seed Gilles Simon in the first round and last year it was the fourth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. This time, it is Juan Martin Del Potro, but Baghdatis is not complaining. The glass is half full for him.
"I think if it's tough for me, it's tough for the guys also to play against me," said the Cypriot, who reached the final of the 2006 Australian Open. "I take it that way. I think I have the game to beat anybody. So it's going to be tough for him and it's going to be tough for me. It's an equal game."
The only time Baghdatis met a non-seeded player in the opening round here - Andrey Golubev in 2011 - the 27-year-old was forced to pull out midway through the game with an injury. He has not enjoyed much luck on that side as well.
Injuries have been a constant with Baghdatis, impeding a career that had promised a lot when he took the 2003 Australian Open junior's crown and reached two consecutive boys finals of the US Open. But when fit, he can hit with the best and almost always manages to get the fans on his side.
"People are great and the atmosphere on centre court [here] is fantastic," Baghdatis said. "I have played some nice matches here against Novak [Djokovic], Nadal, Tsonga and hopefully on Monday or Tuesday against Del Potro, it will be a great atmosphere again and I am looking forward.
"It will be a tough game, but if you look at the draw there is no easy opponent. It's nice to play against a top 10 player - some pressure is off. So I'll give my best and try to play good tennis, and try to win.
"To win a tournament, you have to beat everybody and that's what I am here to do. I have been playing some good tennis lately. In the last five months I am very consistent. I am playing great tennis and I am feeling great."
Mikhail Youzhny is harbouring similar hopes after losing two finals in his 11 visits to Dubai - to Roger Federer in 2007 and Djokovic in 2010. The Russian will start against Slovak Blaz Kavcic.
"It will be tough," Youzhny said." There are six of the top 10 here, so I don't want to think about the title. Now I will concentrate on my first game and take it step by step from there."
The top seed Djokovic will start his campaign against fellow Serbian Viktor Troicki, while wildcard Malek Jaziri has got defending champion Federer in the first round. Tomas Berdych, the third seed, will also meet a wildcard, Rajeev Ram, while the fifth seed Tsonga has been drawn against French compatriot Michael Llodra.
Janko Tipsarevic and Andreas Seppi - the 6th and 7th seeds - have got a tough first-round as well, with the Serb meeting former world No 3 Nikolay Davydenko and Italian Seppi facing-off against Paul-Henri Mathieu.
"I've lost all of the three matches I've played against Mathieu, so it's going to be a difficult first round for sure," Seppi said. "But, I'm playing well at the moment, so hopefully I can beat him this time."
"I've never played too well in this tournament, but I always enjoy coming back, so if I can also play some good tennis [like fellow Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci on the women's side], it's better for me!"
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