Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Dubai Tennis 2019 predictions: Can Stefanos Tsitsipas or Kei Nishikori stop Roger Federer?

The ATP 500 tournament pits the world's top players – both veteran and upcoming – starting on Monday

Roger Federer, seven-time winner Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and considered by many as the greatest player of all time, headlines the 2019 event where he kicks off his campaign against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

But the Swiss world No 7 will not be the top seed at the ATP 500 event this year, given the presence of world No 6 and Asian No 1 Kei Nishikori of Japan. They are not the only title contenders either.

Major winners Marin Cilic (world No 10) and Stan Wawrinka (No 41), in-form journeymen Milos Raonic (No 14) and Gael Monfils (No 23), and rising stars Karen Khachanov (No 11), Stefanos Tsitsipas (No 12) and Daniil Medvedev (No 15) will all be vying for the total prize money of US$2,736,845 (more than Dh10 million) on offer.

Because the competition is expected to be fierce in Dubai, The National attempt to predict the winners, strugglers and surprises of the 2019 tournament.

Kei Nishikori has made a good start to the season and the world No 6 is the top seed in Dubai this year. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
Kei Nishikori has made a good start to the season and the world No 6 is the top seed in Dubai this year. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

CHAMPION

Jon Turner – Assistant Sports Editor: Roger Federer. The Swiss superstar makes a welcome return to Dubai after missing last year's tournament. As a record seven-time champion, Federer knows better than anyone what it takes to win this event, and he arrives as fresh as can be having not played since the Australian Open. Such an absence could lead to doubts over match sharpness, but given his wealth of experience, second seed Federer should have few problems. A first-round match against veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, against whom Federer holds a 13-0 record, is the ideal opening test to find his fitness. He may be in the twilight of his career, but 37-year-old Federer should still be considered the man to beat in Dubai.

Graham Caygill – Sports Editor: Stefanos Tsitsipas. He had his breakthrough with his run to the Australian Open semi-finals in January, defeating Roger Federer along the way. The Greek player has the power from the back of the court to be a real handful this week and, if he can get anywhere near the level of performance he produced in Melbourne, he will be hard to stop. He reached the quarter-finals in Dubai 12 months ago and, with more experience under his belt, he is a real contender.

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil – Assistant Sports Editor: Kei Nishikori. After reaching a career high No 4 in the ATP Tour rankings four years ago, the Japanese star struggled with injury and consequently a loss of form. But he began a remarkable comeback in 2018 as a result of which he is today the sixth-best player in the world. He has a 11-2 win-loss record this year, has one title in the bag already – the Brisbane International – and has reached quarter-finals of the Australian Open and semi-finals at Rotterdam. Consistency is one of the reasons why the 29-year-old is the top seed, and therefore the top contender, in Dubai.

Marcos Baghdatis, who reached the Dubai final three years ago, has a skill for dragging opponents into gruelling slugfests. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Marcos Baghdatis, who reached the Dubai final three years ago, has a skill for dragging opponents into gruelling slugfests. Francois Nel / Getty Images

SURPRISE PACKAGE

JT: Nikoloz Basilashvili. Currently boasting a career-high ranking of No 20, Georgia's Basilashvili, 27, is one of the most exciting players on the ATP Tour. After his best season in 2018, which included his first two titles, Basilashvili has yet to hit the same heights this year. A first-round match against fourth seed Karen Khachanov is a tough opener, but the Russian is struggling for form. Get through that and a likely showdown with defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut awaits. By no means an easy draw, but if Basilashvili can harness his attacking instincts and channel his power effectively, he can go far in Dubai.

GC: Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot may now be outside the top 100, No 124 to be precise, but he can still be an awkward customer on the court. The 33-year-old has a skill for dragging opponents into gruelling slugfests, and he has a draw that could allow him the opportunity to cause a surprise or two, with the winner of the match between Marin Cilic and Gael Monfils a possible second-round opponent. It is three years ago since he reached the final in Dubai, and while a repeat of that may be a stretch, there is grounds for optimism that he can go deep in the tournament.

Cb: Tomas Berdych. That the Czech star – who was once world No 4, has won 13 titles in his career, and reached the Wimbledon final and semi-finals of the other three majors – arrives in Dubai ranked 71 in the world shows you how precipitous his fall has been. And yet, the 33-year-old is on the mend. A title remains elusive this year, but he has a creditable 11-4 win-loss record in 2019, reached the final in Doha, the last 16 at the Australian Open and semi-finals of the Open Sud de France in Montpellier – albeit an ATP 250 event. He does not have an intimidating draw and, if he reaches the semi-finals – where he could come up against an in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas – it will be a good tournament for him.

Marin Cilic has not played since his last-16 exit at the Australian Open and, therefore, is unlikely to win in Dubai. Darrian Traynor / Getty Images
Marin Cilic has not played since his last-16 exit at the Australian Open and, therefore, is unlikely to win in Dubai. Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

DISAPPOINTMENT

JT: Borna Coric. The Croatian made a huge impact on his Dubai debut in 2015, reaching the semi-finals with a win over Andy Murray en route. The world No 13 made it to the quarter-finals last year, losing to eventual champion Bautista Agut. However, the 22-year-old sixth seed arrives in Dubai following back-to-back defeats – to Lucas Pouille at the Australian Open and Ugo Humbert in Marseille. Coric faces a tough first round match against in-form Mikhail Kukushkin, and should he progress will likely face two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych. An early exit beckons.

GC: Marin Cilic. The world No 10 has a tough opening-round match against Gael Monfils, a player who will be full of confidence after winning in Rotterdam. Cilic has not played since his disappointing last-16 exit at the Australian Open and given his lack of game time, or form, and the fact he is up against strong opposition means there is a very real proposition of an early departure from proceedings here for the Croatian.

Cb: Karen Khachanov. There is little doubt the Russian is far from being a finished article. He is world No 11, which shows his quality and the progress he has made throughout 2018. But he has been in indifferent form this year, having won four and lost four. Given his ranking, you would expect him to blaze through the draw and reach the semi-finals at the very least. But he has a challenging draw, starting with his first-round match against Nikoloz Basilashvili, the impressive Georgian.

Updated: February 24, 2019 02:47 PM

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