Dubai: World number one tennis ace Novak Djokovic has history in his sights as he aims to become the first player to retain the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships men's singles title for a fourth consecutive year.
Heading into the men's competition, which starts today at the Aviation Club's Dubai Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, the 24-year-old Serbian faces a relative unknown in the first round, World No 72 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, 21, of Germany.
Djokovic, who already has five Grand Slam singles titles to his name, said of his historic quest for a fourth consecutive victory in Dubai: "Any kind of history is a blessing. It's something each player searches for and if it happens I'd be extra happy.
Tricky first match
"At any tournament I aim to win. I've really experienced the best time in my career of late. I'm in the peak of form, 24, and I believe I can win most of the matches I enter on court. I just want to keep up the good work and keep to the same old routine. I'm always searching to be the best.
"Every tournament and every year is different but I've always played my best tennis in Dubai and I've had lots of success here, so I have all the reason to believe I can do it again, because I've always performed reasonably well on this stage."
Asked if he had any first-hand knowledge of his first round opposition, Djokovic said: "My brother grew up with him in juniors. I watched him play [Lleyton] Hewitt and he was impressive. He's a youngster with great attitude and plays without fear for his opposition. He's aggressive, hits the ball hard and plays really well.
"This will be a tricky first match. The surface always plays faster here than other surfaces and with the sandstorm we've just had I hope the courts are clean and ready for play. You never know, he [Stebe] has a good serve and its going to be an open contest."
Speaking of his dominance in Dubai, where Djokovic will be joined for the first-time by his younger brother Marko, 20, a wild card who faces Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan in round one, Djokovic said: "I always feel good here, I'm made to feel welcome and at home by the organisers who do a great job to attract the world's best to this event.
"You only have to see that there are seven or eight of the world's top ten taking part — that says enough. You're guaranteed a good week of intensive matches and great attendances. With it being the 20th anniversary of this event, it's going to be great."