Roger Federer, a seven-time time champion in Dubai, holder of 20 grand slam titles and all-round magician on court, is all set to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 25. Ahead of the six-day event, Gulf News tabloid!’s Deuce Report gives you seven names you should watch out for this year, including Federer of course:
ATP ranking – 7
The 20-time Grand Slam winner needs little introduction in a city where he owns a residence. After an early exit in last month’s Australian Open, Federer returns to Dubai needing wins under his belt before he begins his campaign for a record ninth Wimbledon title. At 37 years of age, this could well be the final opportunity Dubai fans will get to witness arguably the greatest player of all time in action.
ATP ranking – 6
Former World No 4, Nishikori’s rise has been the catalyst for the current explosion of the game in Japan. He is lightning fast around the court, while his on-the-rise shot-making robs opponents of time. After wrist and knee injuries in the past couple of seasons, Nishikori is moving back into top form. He rarely loses to anyone but the very top players, and is clearly one of the favourites for the title.
ATP ranking – 10
One of only seven current players who have won a Grand Slam event. The 2014 US Open champion possesses the weapons to run through any draw. However, the giant Croat has struggled of late and is in real danger of falling out of the top ten. He will need a strong showing in Dubai to keep the pack of young players from overtaking him.
ATP ranking – 12
When the 20-year-old Greek dumped Roger Federer out of last month’s Australian Open, it was heralded by John McEnroe as a ‘changing of the guard’. With his long hair, extravagantly flowing backhand and a philosophical attitude towards life, Tsitsipas is a star in the making. A win in Dubai could be a stepping stone to a win in a Major later in the year.
ATP ranking – 13
The 22-year-old Croat often uses Dubai as a training base and knows the conditions well. Athletic and motivated, Coric plays a high-tempo game with an ability to attack from any area of the court. His aggression is perfect for Dubai, which has some of the fastest courts on tour. Don’t be surprised if he is in the final at the end of the week.
Roberto Bautista Agut
ATP ranking – 18
The Spaniard has a reputation as one of the toughest competitors on the tour. He may lack the weapons of the top players, but he makes up for this with grit and a never-say-die attitude. His defeat of Andy Murray in Australia may have ended the Scotsman’s career. After winning last year’s Dubai Duty Free Championships, don’t expect him to let the title go without a real fight.
ATP Ranking – 45
One for the purists. A rarity in today’s modern game, Ebden plays a classic serve-and-volley style reminiscent of his fellow Australians from the past. He won’t win the tournament, but in Dubai’s quick conditions his constant attacks will make him a dangerous floater.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to the DDFTC are available on dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com and from the Stadium Box Office which is open daily from 9am to 9pm.
MEET THE AUTHOR: GREGORY HOWE
Gregory Howe is a Dubai-based teacher and former professional tennis player who played on the ATP Tour for 30 years, from 1988 to 2018. Howe, who was born in the UK to Australian parents, has recently written a book, ‘Chasing Points: A Season on the Pro Tennis Circuit’, that’s on sale at the DDFTC and in book stores across the UAE. The father-of-two spoke to Gulf News tabloid! about the inspiration for his book.
Why did you decide to write the book?
Firstly, because I thought many people could relate to a guy in his 30s quitting his job to chase a dream before it was too late. And secondly, no one had written a book about life in the minor leagues of professional tennis, and just how tough it is to break through to the elite ATP Tour.
What were some of the things you learnt that you didn’t know before you joined the ATP Tour?
That the players in the top hundred in the world were not supermen, and that for short bursts an amateur like myself could stay with them. I also discovered that on the ATP Tour, no one speaks to you. I travelled alone to play the China Open. Only on the flight home did I realise I hadn’t had a conversation with anyone. I guess that’s why many players travel with entourages.
Who’s your favourite tennis player of all-time and why?
I’m going to say the black, dreadlocked Frenchman from the 1980s — Yannick Noah. He had charisma and style, and a great back story having been discovered in Cameroon when he was twelve and sent to France. Now he’s a major rock star there. One day his life will be a movie.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took six months to write the first draft of the book, and over a year to edit it while I looked for a publisher. I’d say I received about 15 rejections from agents and publishers before Pitch Publishing in the UK signed it up. In a way, the fact that the publishing process took so long was a blessing as it allowed me time to really polish the manuscript. Once I’d signed the contract, I had three months to submit it for editing, which isn’t long when you’re combining writing with a full-time job.
What’s the message you’d like your readers to take home?
To have the courage to follow through on your dreams. I was 34 years of age when I quit my job as a schoolteacher to try my hand as a pro tennis player. No one took me seriously, but in the end, I played in events like the Dubai ATP championships. I simply thought to myself, what have I got to lose?
— As told to David Tusing, tabloid! Editor.