Novak Djokovic is returning to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Novak Djokovic is returning to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Novak Djokovic has announced he will return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month in a bid to reclaim the title he last won in 2013.

The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion and world No. 2 joins a stellar field that includes eight-time champion Roger Federer, who in winning last year claimed his 100th career singles title. Also bidding for the title will be 2019 finalist and ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2018 Dubai winner Roberto Bautista Agut.

“We are thrilled to welcome Novak Djokovic back to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “He is one of the greatest champions the game has ever seen, with 16 Grand Slam titles so far to his name with no doubt more to come. We are delighted to not only welcome him, but also welcome one of the finest athletes in any sport over the past decade and more, Roger Federer, as well as one of the brightest future stars on the ATP Tour, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“They will begin as favourites for the title, but experience over the years has shown us that none can be assured of success here in what is such a competitive field. It will be fascinating to see who will emerge as the winner.”

Djokovic, who has already begun this season by playing an integral role in leading Serbia to victory in the inaugural ATP Cup, is second only to Federer in amassing a host of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship titles. He collected his first trophy in 2009 with victory over David Ferrer and successfully defended his title with a three-set victory over Mikhail Youzhny in a battle that was interrupted by torrential rain and had to be completed over two days, before making it three in a row with a straight-set triumph over Federer in 2011.

After Federer defeated Andy Murray in the 2012 final, Djokovic returned to the winner’s rostrum in 2013 by overcoming Tomas Berdych. He contested his fifth Dubai final in 2015 but was defeated by Federer, and in his most recent appearance in Dubai, in 2016, he was forced to retire after losing the first set of his quarter-final match against Feliciano Lopez due to an eye infection.

Tickets to watch Djokovic and Federer in action are now on sale online starting at Dh55 for the first three days.

Federer, at 38, is still as competitive as ever and will not easily surrender his crown as, with 103 titles, he edges ever closer to surpassing the all-time record of 109 titles held by Jimmy Connors. Tsitsipas is also certain to be a top contender, with 2019 victories over both Federer and Djokovic as well as current world No. 1 Rafael Nadal on the Spaniard’s favourite surface of clay.

Other exciting players to catch include the eccentric but brilliant Gael Monfils and Italian Fabio Fognini, who last season defeated Nadal, Bautista Agut and Andy Murray. Veteran Jo Wilfried Tsonga is competing here for the first time in six years and has collected 18 career titles including two from 2019. British No. 1 Dan Evans, who recently helped Britain to the Davis Cup semi-finals and the quarter-finals of the ATP Cup.

“The stage is set once again for a magnificent two weeks of world-class tennis, with one of the strongest men’s and women’s fields ever assembled in Dubai,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “With so many top players confirmed, fans will have their pick on which world-class matches to watch on Centre Court.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begin with the WTA event, which runs from February 17 to 22 and features reigning Grand Slam champions Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu, and then continues between February 24 and 29 with the ATP tournament.

Tickets may not be resold or transferred by anyone other than the organisers and are available from the DDFTC website, Platinum List and the Box Office, which opens on January 29.