x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Federer to face wild card ... but it is not Omar Awadhy

Emirati to play Sergiy Stakhovsky in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Ivan Ljubicic, Tomas Berdych, and Viktor Troicki  at the draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Ivan Ljubicic, Tomas Berdych, and Viktor Troicki at the draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

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- Roger Federer targets No 1 ranking

- Caroline Wozniacki secures Dubai Tennis Championships

- Novak Djokovic back with a better mentality

DUBAI // For a brief moment, Salah Tahlak, the tournament director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, the vice-president of Tennis Emirates, held their collective breaths.

The two Emiratis were sitting centre stage at yesterday's men's singles draw at the Aviation Club, waiting to discover who would be the first name drawn and thus face top seed Roger Federer.

"It's one of our wild cards," said the compère, pausing for a second as the locals in the room excitedly considered for the first time the possibility of their own Omar Awadhy, a 29-year-old Emirati right-hander who had been gifted one of the tournament's three invitational entries, playing against the 16-time major winner in front of a worldwide TV audience.

Milliseconds dragged by, before the compère completed his sentence: "It's Somdev Devvarman."

Cue simultaneous exhaling.

World No 2 Federer will meet India's top-ranked male in the week-long tournament's first round, while second seed Novak Djokovic, the reigning champion here for the past two years, will begin his defence against France's Michael Llodra.

Thomas Berdych, the powerful Czech who is seeded third after the withdrawal of Andy Murray last week, will face Jeremy Chardy, the Frenchman who, at No 49 in the world rankings, sits 42 places below the Wimbledon finalist. Berdych yesterday described his opponent as a "strong player" who is "hitting well".

Other matches of note will see Marcos Baghdatis go head to head with Andrey Golubev, while Mikhail Youzhny meets Gilles Simon. As for Awadhy, who is making his eighth wild card appearance in his home ATP tournament, faces Sergiy Stakhovsky, ranked 43 in the world. The Kazakhstan player may not quite be Federer, but a win would be historic all the same - an Emirati has never won a match in any of the Dubai event's 18 previous tournaments.

Order of Play

On Centre Court

Starting 2pm:

Michael Berrer vs Ernests Gulbis

Grigor Dimitrov vs Richard Gasquet

Not before 7pm:

Tomas Berdych vs Jeremy Chardy

Ivan Ljubicic vs Sergei Bubka

On Court 1

Starting at 2pm:

Philipp Petzschner vs Andreas Seppi

Florian Mayer vs Jarkko Nieminen

On Court 3

Starting at 4pm:

Lukas Rosol vs Karol Beck

Also read:

- Roger Federer targets No 1 ranking

- Caroline Wozniacki secures Dubai Tennis Championships

- Novak Djokovic back with a better mentality