Roger Federer and world number one Novak Djokovic lead a star studded field into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Outside of the Australian Open, this 500 level event is certainly the most difficult field to date in 2013. Six out of the world's top ten will be making appearances this week in what is a very top heavy draw. The two highest ranked players outside of the the top ten that are in this tournament are Andreas Seppi (19) and Mikhail Youzhny (32).
The tournament has four qualifiers and three wild cards.
Prize Pool: $2,000,000
Ranking Points: 500
Seeded Players: 1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia), 2. Roger Federer (Switzerland), 3. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic), 4. Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina), 5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France), 6. Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia), 7. Andreas Seppi (Italy), 8. Mikhail Youzhny (Russia)
2012 Final: Roger Federer d. Andy Murray 7-5 6-4
First Round Matches to Watch
Juan Martin Del Potro v. Marcos Baghdatis- Firstly, its very hard for me to get over the fact that this is a first round encounter. Nevertheless, the Rotterdam champion will be taking on the spirited Cypriot in the opening round. The head to head in this matchup is even at two a piece. All four meetings between these two have occurred on hard courts so this is a tough one to pick. If Del Potro is having an off day similar to the one he had against Chardy in the third round of the Australian Open, Baghdatis's grit and consistency could prove to be enough to stop the Argentinean. With that said, this match is Del Po's to win or lose. I would look for Baghdatis to replicate and favor the backhand to backhand exchanges in this match. By keeping balls deep, cross court to Del Po's backhand, the Cyrpiot limits the dictating power of Del Potro and can seek to wear the big man down.
Prediction: After Del Potro's curious loss to Simon last week, I'll take Del Potro to pick his form back up and send Baghdatis home early in straight sets.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v. Michael Llodra- This one is always a fun one to watch. Jo- Willy is coming off a massive win in Marseille beating Tomas Berdych in the final saving a match point along the way. The last time these two played was in first round of this year's Australian Open which Tsonga took in straight sets. Tsonga has dominated the head to head in this matchup and leads 6-0 though Llodra has retired three times during their matches. In this matchup, it'll be key for Llodra to shorten up points and effectively serve and volley on the back of a high percentage of first serves. Look for Llodra to do well with the slice serve out wide on the ad side and to attack Tsonga's backhand as often as possible. The only thing I think Tsonga needs to worry about is maintaining depth as Llodra will be keen to take attack any short ball and move forward.
Prediction: Look for Tsonga to carry his momentum from Marseille over to Dubai and beat Llodra in straight sets without much trouble.
Janko Tipsarevic v. Nikolay Davydenko: Like Baghdatis and Del Potro, Davydenko and Tipsarevic have each recorded two victories over the other, but Tipsarevic has won their last two meetings. Davydenko last beat the Serb in 2008. Both these guys have had unimpressive performances the last several weeks with Tipsarevic losing his opening matches in Montpellier and Marseille and Davydenko losing in the second round of both Rotterdam and Marseille. Davydenko and Tipsarevic hit the ball very cleanly, are solid movers, and have high tennis IQs. There is very little to pick between these two and the way Tipsarevic has looked the last two weeks, I wouldn't be shocked if Davydenko pulls off the upset.
Prediction: I'll take Davydenko to prolong Tipsarevic's dry spell and take out the number six seed in three sets.