Dubai: When Mikhail Youzhny, Nikolay Davydenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova compete in the 2008 Dubai Tennis Championships the Russian trio will face different challenges.
Youzhny last year brought off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament when he overcame defending champion and world number two Rafael Nadal in straight sets on his way to a final showdown with Roger Federer.
Now he has the pressure of trying to live up to his reputation as a giant killer when play returns next month.
The Dubai Tennis Stadium has proved to be one of his most successful venues. His victory over Nadal was not his first in Dubai, with a win over the Spaniard putting him into the 2004 semifinals. And he continued his winning ways by reaching the quarterfinals in 2005 and a semifinal in 2006, both ending in defeat by Federer.
"It's tough to beat Roger," said Youzhny after also losing the 2007 final to the super-Swiss.
Kuznetsova has a similar reputation to live up to, after contesting the final in 2004 and then advancing to the semifinals in both 2006 and 2007. Each time it took four-time Dubai champion Justine Henin to stop her run. Davydenko will be anxious to do things a little differently this year. Despite rising to four in the world, claiming 11 titles and reaching three other finals, he has failed to make any impact on the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are all taking part in the tournament.
Play begins on February 25 with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament, and is followed by the ATP event from March 3rd to 8th.
Delray Beach International men's singles semifinal (prefix denotes seeding):
1-James Blake (US) beat Robby Ginepri (US) 6-4 6-4; Kei Nishikori (Japan) beat 3-Sam Querrey (US) 4-6 6-2 7-6(7).
Marseille Open men's singles semifinal:
Mario Ancic (Croatia) beat 6-Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) 6-4 6-2; 4-Andy Murray (Britain) beat 8-Paul-Henri Mathieu (France) 6-2 6-2.
Antwerp Diamond Games women's singles semifinal:
Karin Knapp (Italy) beat 9-Li Na (China) 6-4 7-6(5); 1-Justine Henin (Belgium) beat Timea Bacsinszky (Switzerland) 2-6 6-3 6-3.
Cachantun Cup women's singles semifinal:
1-Flavia Pennetta (Italy) beat 4-Pauline Parmentier (France) 6-2 6-0; 8-Klara Zakopalova (Czech Republic) beat Mariya Koryttseva (Ukraine) 6-2 7-5.