x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dubai Duty Free Championships draw puts Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in same half

No dream final in Dubai as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer find themselves in the same half of the men’s draw for the second week of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Roger Federer, left, and Novak Djokovic wil be on the same side of the draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Jaime Puebla / The National
Roger Federer, left, and Novak Djokovic wil be on the same side of the draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, winners of nine of the last 11 men’s singles titles here, will not be meeting in a dream Dubai final next week after being drawn in the same half of the draw.

Djokovic, a four-time champion and the top seed, and Federer, a five-time winner here, have been drawn to meet in the semis, but getting there could be a tricky route for both in a top half that includes unseeded players such as wild card James Ward, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and Daniel Brands.

The Serb defending champion starts his campaign against Uzbek Denis Istomin and could meet Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, who knocked Juan Martin Del Potro out of the Australian Open last month, in the second round. No 6 seed Mikhail Youzhny, who has reached two finals in Dubai, could be his opponent in the quarter-finals.

Federer will open against a tricky opponent, Germany’s Benjamin Becker, and could find himself playing Czech veteran Stepanek in the second round. Then, he is expected to meet Russian No 8 seed Dmitry Tursunov.

“When you look at the draw and see the players who are there – you have five of the top 10 guys here, you cannot expect that you’re going to be playing easy matches in the first two rounds,” Stepanek said. “When you look at the field in this tournament, you have tough opponents, even in the first round. So there are no free matches these days on our tour and that’s what you have to expect here.”

Tursunov, who meets a qualifier in the first round, agreed and said: “I was telling Radek during the draw ceremony that a few years back, we used to have matches where you could say, ‘OK, this is a player that I could potentially play against and I would love to have him in the draw’. But right now, there is almost no player that you would like to play against. Everyone is difficult.”

In the bottom half of the draw, No 2 seed Juan Martin del Potro will take on Indian wild card Somdev Devvarman in the opening round and is scheduled to face No 7 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last eight.

Tomas Berdych, winner at Rotterdam last week and the No 3 seed, will meet a qualifier in the opening round and could face No 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-final.

For the second year in a row, there will be no Emirati wild card in the main draw and Salah Tahlak, the tournament director, said Devvarman, Jaziri and Ward were given wild cards instead as they met the tournament criteria.

“We have a big Indian community here in the UAE, so we thought Somdev will be good for the Indian fans coming here,” he said. “For the pan-Arabs, we have a Tunisian and for the huge English community, we have Ward.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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