Malek Jaziri undaunted by prospect of meeting Grigor Dimitrov in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships opener
Tunisian wild card, who has previously faced Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in tournament, is 'used to playing top seeds'
Toughest draw or not, Malek Jaziri does not seem that daunted.
Ranked 116th in the world, the Tunisian wild card opens this week's ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships account on Tuesday against Grigor Dimitrov, a man placed 112 spots above him in the global standings. Dimitrov is the tournament’s No 1 seed.
Admittedly, Jaziri is used to sharing the spotlight in Dubai. In his past five appearances, he has gone up against Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. They form three past champions, as well as three of the finest players of a generation.
In 2013, Jaziri took a set off Federer in an unexpectedly tight match. Two years ago, he met Djokovic in the second round. This time, he faces world No 4 Dimitrov, the highest-ranked player in the field. Opponents do not come much more difficult.
Not that Jaziri appears overly concerned.
“I always play here in Dubai,” he said on Sunday, as he prepares for his sixth successive main-draw outing. “I enjoy this tournament. It's the best ATP 500 in the world. It's a pleasure to be here, to show great tennis.
“I'm used to playing top seeds. Last year, I played Murray. Year before, Djokovic. Sometime I think I played Federer also. I'm used to playing top 10 players here. Hopefully this time it will be a good one.”
ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships: Everything you need to know
Jaziri may not be the favourite to win, although he did reach the quarter-finals in 2014. Then, a remarkable run was brought to an end by German Philipp Kohlschreiber. Yet it suggests Jaziri, without an ATP Tour title since turning pro in 2003, can be a dangerous opponent.
It is for that reason Dimitrov vowed on Sunday not to underestimate him. The Bulgarian knows Jaziri well, despite the pair having never played one another competitively.
As for Jaziri, whose career-high ranking came at No 47 last year, he claims to have a few surprises up his sleeve.
“Yeah, like practising with new coach since last year,” he said. “I keep improving a lot of things physically and technically, as well. I'm working few things to change, to improve my game. I work more physically now, keep more fit, to get fit, to play as long as possible.
“I made good preparations for the tournament, played a few matches here. I think I'm ready for this match.”
Updated: February 25, 2018 06:34 PM