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Daniel Evans and Alexei Popyrin with the men's trophy during the official ATP draw ceremony of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: World No 1 Novak Djokovic is the headline act of the 31st Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begins on Sunday, but all eyes will be on Britain’s Andy Murray, who has been in red-hot form in the Qatar Open.

The former world No 1 Murray, who fought his way into the Qatar Open final after marathon wins, has been given the wild card and his presence among the three former winners will make the contests more interesting. The British ace

“We have a very good line-up with the world No 1 Novak Djokovic heading the field that includes eight of the top 20 players,” Ramesh Cidambi, COO of DDF, told Gulf News. “We are happy to have given Murray the wild card and more than happy that he is in great form and has shown fantastic resilience in working his way back from his earlier surgery. He is playing extremely well in Doha and we hope his form continues in Dubai.”

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Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of DDF, Ramesh Cidambi, Salah Tahlak along with players and oficials during the draw ceremony on Saturday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Tough week for players

The 35-year-old Briton has shown great resilience during his run to the showpiece match in Doha and his semi-final victory was his fourth three-set win in four games, which included comeback wins over Lorenzo Sonego and Alexandre Muller.

However, the 2017 champion is in the top half of the draw and is likely to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be a tough week for the players, but the fans will enjoy the tennis,” added Cidambi.

Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, 2018 champion, has pulled out of the championships due to injury and his place will be taken by qualifier, while South Korean Soonwoo Kwan also pulled out due to injury.

Favourable draw

Tunisian Malek Jaziri, who has been a regular visitor to UAE, will be playing his last tournament of his professional career in Dubai. The 39-year-old finds himself in the latter half of a slightly favourable draw, along with defending chanmpion and second-seeded Andrey Rublev.

“We have a good line-up and Malek Jaziri every year he picks the top players. He has played Roger Federer, Murray, Andy Roddick and Djokovic. This draw has given him some luck and wish him all the best,” tournament director Salah Tahlak said. “After a successful first week, I want to see people coming back as three of our champions have returned, missing one in Agut.”

Focus on first round

Dubai-resident Alexei Popyrin, who started his career as a ball kid in the DDF championships, is in the main draw and will run into Murray early in the event.

“I am not looking at the second match, my focus is only on the first round,” Popyrin, who was present at the draw ceremony on Saturday, said.

With more stars ready to showcase their talents, including 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev and Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev also gunning for the title, another interesting high-quality clash in store for tennis fans.