x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai Tennis Championships offer test for Big Four dominance

It's too soon to tell if Stanislas Wawrinka's Australian Open win represents 'a loosening of the Big Four's grip,' writes Ahmed Rizvi, but the Dubai Tennis Championships will offer the field another chance to prove so.

Novak Djokovic will be one of the heavy favourites at this month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Lee Hoagland / The National
Novak Djokovic will be one of the heavy favourites at this month's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Lee Hoagland / The National

Stanislas Wawrinka’s stunning Australian Open triumph might have raised hopes among a section of tennis fans about the possible loosening of the Big Four’s grip on men’s tennis. Former world No 1 Ivan Lendl begs to disagree.

“Stan played fantastic tennis, but we need to wait until next month to see how the season starts shaping,” Lendl said last week. “It’s a bit of a small sample to make a conclusion.”

Lendl believes the first two Masters events of the year – Indian Wells and Miami next month – could provide a better judgement on the possible threat to the quartet’s domination. Before that, the Dubai Tennis Championships could provide a hint.

The champions list of the Dubai tournament mirrors that of the grand slams, with only one winner from outside the Big Four since Roger Federer won the first of his five Dubai titles in 2003. Novak Djokovic has won four times in Dubai and Rafael Nadal has won it once.

Andy Roddick (2008) is the only Dubai men’s champion from outside the Big Four over the past 11 years, but with Nadal and Murray absent this year, there is an opportunity for the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Mikhail Youzhny, who has twice lost in the final, might fancy his chances too.

Fans, however, would like nothing better than a Djokovic-Federer final, but that can happen only if they avoid getting placed in the same half of the draw. Even then, there will be pitfalls along the way.