DUBAI, January 15, 2015
Dubai is all set to welcome one of the best player line-ups ever when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships returns next month. The ATP 500 tournament will take place from February 23-28, is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the sporting calendar of the United Arab Emirates, and one of the most popular tournaments on the international tennis circuit.
The line-up for the ATP tournament has been finalised, and Andy Murray will join defending and six-time champion Roger Federer, four-time winner Novak Djokovic and recent two-time finalist Tomas Berdych as the top contenders for one of the most sought-after trophies on the ATP World Tour.
Murray enjoyed a strong end to the 2014 season, earning titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia, earning him a place in the ATP World Tour Finals. He reached the semi-finals of the French Open for the second time before falling to Rafael Nadal, as well as the semi-finals in Acapulco and Beijing, and he reached the quarter-finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open.
The British number one has already claimed several outstanding victories in Dubai, arguably none more so than his debut match in 2008 when he overcame Federer in the opening round. On his most recent visit to the Dubai Tennis Stadium he beat both Berdych and Djokovic before falling to Federer in a tremendous final. Murray has fond memories of that battle, despite coming off second-best.
“The atmosphere was fantastic,” said Murray of that match. “I think most of the crowd wanted Roger to win but it’s not often you get the chance to play in a packed stadium.”
Federer surrendered his title the following year to Djokovic, but claimed it back again in 2014 after beating the Serb in the semi-finals and Berdych in the final.
“Roger Federer has won the title six times and Novak Djokovic four at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and as the top two players in the world it is natural that they will begin the tournament as favourites,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers.
“Tomas Berdych has also enjoyed tremendous success here and will not be taken lightly, and Andy Murray too has proved he is also a major contender with wins over all three in Dubai. It will be fascinating to see who can emerge at the end of the week as the winner.”
Despite falling at the final hurdle in the last two years, Berdych will be full of confidence as he makes another bid for the title. Last season he added two more titles to the eight he already held, winning in Rotterdam and Stockholm, and as well as reaching the Dubai final he was the runner-up in Oeiras and Beijing. And he has carried his outstanding form into this season, beginning the year by reaching the final in Doha.
Federer had yet another incredible season, following up his Dubai triumph with victories in Halle, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Basel and reaching no less than six further finals, headed by Wimbledon and the ATP World Tour Finals as well as Brisbane, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo and Toronto. And, like Berdych, he continued his winning ways into the new season, making history by winning the Brisbane title with his 1000th tour-level victory. Only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have won more matches in the Open Era, dating back to 1968.
But despite the great achievements of Murray, Berdych and Federer, it is still Djokovic who stands as the world number one. He won Wimbledon, reached the final of the French Open and claimed a total of seven titles during 2014 with victories at Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Beijing, Paris and at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the last on a walkover when Federer was forced to default the match due to injury.
Despite their success both in Dubai and elsewhere, none of the fantastic four will take success for granted as a field of world-class opposition bids to add their own name to the winners board.
Ernests Gulbis will be a player that both Federer and Berdych especially will be wary of after he beat them both to reach the semi-finals of the French Open in 2014 after winning titles in Marseille and Nice. And Feliciano Lopez has already proved himself several times over in Dubai, twice reaching the final and stretching opponents such as Federer, Djokovic and Andy Roddick to three sets. He was also in excellent form last season, retaining his title at Eastbourne and reaching the final at Queen’s Club.
Among other worthy challengers will be Roberto Bautista Agut after he showed his versatility in 2014 by winning titles in s’Hertogenbosch on grass and Stuttgart on clay, as well as contesting the final of Moscow on hardcourt. His good form has continued into 2015 as he reached the Chennai semi-finals.
The entry lists also includes some contenders of the “young guns-generation”. Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Nick Kyrgious also confirmed their participation to make it an interesting field for this year’s edition.
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak said: “Although many eyes will be on the big four of Djokovic, Federer, Berdych and Murray, many of their potential opponents have also proved on many occasions that they are able to compete at the very highest level, and all of them will be taken very seriously. We are certainly in for yet another outstanding festival of tennis featuring many of the finest players in the world.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features world number one Serena Williams, defending champion Venus Williams, former winners Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, and French Open runner-up Simona Halep. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament.