Dubai: One of the greatest rivalries in sport is set to resume when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins next month.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have long dominated the top of the men’s tennis world rankings along with Rafael Nadal, and the pair have claimed an incredible nine of the last 11 Dubai titles. Only Nadal in 2006 and Andy Roddick in 2008 have managed to prevent them claiming the silver dhow trophy since Federer earned his first title in 2003.
After suffering from back problems during much of 2013, Federer is now fully fit once more and his coaching link-up with multiple Grand Slam-winner and former world number one Stefan Edberg has added a new attacking dimension to his game. Djokovic too has added a legend to his coaching staff, with Boris Becker also determined to take the Serbian’s game to new heights.
“Roger Federer has won the singles crown here a remarkable five times, more than any other player, man or woman,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman of tournament owners and organisers Dubai Duty Free. “Novak Djokovic also has a fantastic record in Dubai with four titles in the last five years.
“With two of the best ever to play the game, and with the best records among the countless champions who have competed here over the previous 21 years of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, it is with great pleasure that we welcome them back to continue what is one of the strongest rivalries in the game today.”
Djokovic and Federer will be just part of a world-class field that also includes the return of Tomas Berdych, along with Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“We are looking forward to some amazing matches next month in Dubai. With Djokovic playing brilliant tennis and Federer returning to his winning form we are expecting some tough battles,” tournament director Salah Tahlak said.
Federer swept to the title in only his second appearance in Dubai in 2003 and he went on to take the next two titles as well.
Nadal ended his 19-match winning streak in a dramatic three set final in 2006, before 2007 saw his first Dubai meeting with Djokovic, who was making his tournament debut.
Federer won their quarter-final clash in three tight sets before he went on to take the title for the fourth time.
In 2008, Federer was a victim of one of the most stunning first-round challenges in the history of the tournament when he was drawn against unseeded world number 11 Andy Murray and lost in three hard-fought sets.
Federer missed the next two years through sickness and injury, putting the great rivalry on hold and allowing Djokovic to claim the crown. Having lost to eventual champion Roddick in the 2008 semi-finals, the Serbian went on to beat David Ferrer for the 2009 title and Mikhail Youzhny in a classic three-set battle in 2010 that stretched over two days after a storm had interrupted play.
In 2011 Federer and Djokovic finally clashed in a battle for the title, and it was Djokovic who emerged as a 6-3, 6-3 winner to claim his third consecutive crown. The following season Djokovic was beaten in the semi-finals by Murray and Federer took advantage by beating the Scot in straight sets to gain revenge for his 2008 defeat.
In 2013 it was Federer’s turn to stumble in the semis, going down to Berdych after holding three match points, and it was Djokovic who went on to claim the title with a straight-sets win.
The ATP World Tour event takes place between February 24 and March 1 and follows the WTA tournament that features six of the world’s top 10 female players.
Beginning on February 17, the tournament will feature defending champion and 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, 2012 Dubai champion Agnieszka Radwanska, along with former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are on sale from the Dubai Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, which is open from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand ticket prices range from Dh75 for opening rounds to Dh500 for finals, with season tickets also available. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at www.timeouttickets.com.
For more information log on to www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com or phone +971 4 4172415.