ATP Dubai Tennis Championships: Preview, Draw Analysis

Novak Djokovic in action at the 2021 Australian Open.
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The stars of the ATP tour will round off the Middle Eastern swing with the 30th edition of the Dubai Tennis Championships. World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic will be the biggest star attraction at the ATP 500 event. The Serbian star will make his much-anticipated return to action following his controversial deportation from Australia last month.

Djokovic will be joined in the 32-man field by Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Jannik Sinner as the top four seeds. Defending champion Aslan Karatsev will be looking to get his campaign back on the mend. On that note, here is how the draw is expected to pan out.

ATP Dubai Tennis Championships: Preview and Draw Analysis

Top half, first section: Djokovic returns but could relinquish his No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will make his first on-court appearance for 11 weeks at the Dubai Tennis Championships this week. Djokovic was deported from Australia last month in a chaotic saga with the immigration authorities over his vaccination status. He has since spoken of the furore and his vaccination status publicly in a recent interview on BBC.

Djokovic will face Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti in his first match back. The 19-year-old led Djokovic by two-sets-to-love in their fourth-round match at last year’s French Open before he retired deep in the fifth set.

Djokovic might be feeling the heat all the way from Acapulco. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is hot on his heels as he looks to usurp the Serbian star from the summit of men’s tennis. Medvedev will become the new No. 1 if he wins the title at the Mexican Open. That means regardless of how he does this week, Djokovic is powerless to hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

Should Djokovic get the better of Musetti, he will play one of Karen Khachanov or Alex De Minaur in the second round. Khachanov has started the year strongly, reaching an ATP final in Adelaide and also reaching the semifinals in Doha at his last tournament. De Minaur, meanwhile, has spent the past few days refuting claims he had acquired a fake Covid vaccination certificate from Spain.

Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut is Djokovic’s projected quarterfinal opponent. But the Spanish veteran will need to upstage rapidly-improving Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech and potentially Marin Cilic to set up a meeting against Djokovic. Cilic owns a 6-2 record over Bautista Agut, so if the pair were to lock horns, the Croat should be favorite to progress.
Quarterfinal prediction: Djokovic (1) vs Cilic

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Top half, second section: Could the floodgates open for Felix Auger-Aliassime

Felix Auger-Aliassime won his first ATP title in Rotterdam a couple of weeks back. And he almost made it two in as many weeks but fell short in the Marseille final at the hands of Andrey Rublev. The Canadian will need to beat jetlag and the unpredictable Nikoloz Basilashvili to get his Dubai campaign off to a winning start.

Auger-Aliassime’s path to the last eight is loaded with a handful of power-hitters. And it could culminate in an all-Canadian affair against Denis Shapovalov. Shapovalov endured a mixed start to proceedings in the Middle-Eastern swing, losing in the quarterfinals of Doha to Rinderknech. But he should feel confident about his chances this week. Assuming he can shake off Marton Fucsovics in his opener and probably the off-color David Goffin, he might face his compatriot in a blockbuster quarterfinal.
Quarterfinal prediction: Auger-Aliassime (3) vs Shapovalov (6)

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Bottom half, first section: Murray gets wildcard, but cannot escape hard draws

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray will face a qualifier for comfort in his opening match. But that will be a temporary respite for the Briton who is slated to meet Jannik Sinner in the second round. The Italian number four seed opens up against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and is probably the safest pick to make the last eight.

Elsewhere, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz will be looking to get his 2022 campaign back on track. The World No. 11 will play his first-round match against the in-form Kazakh Alexander Bublik.

Bublik picked up his maiden ATP title in Montpellier earlier this month and will be tough to beat this week. If the Pole can find his form and upset Bublik, he could meet a carbon copy of himself in Botic van de Zandschulp. The Dutchman has a seemingly innocuous first-rounder against an out-of-form Lloyd Harris.
Quarterfinal prediction: Sinner (4) vs van de Zandschulp

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Bottom half, second section: Rublev faces stiff competition to reach the last eight

Andrey Rublev is the number two seed in Dubai and opens up against British one-hander Dan Evans. Evans owns a 2-1 record over the Russian and has beaten him on these shores in the past. And it is not inconceivable that he repeats the same trick on Tuesday. Rublev could be exhausted with less than 48 hours of preparation after his Marseille Open title triumph. But if he comes through, I expect to go on a streak.

Defending champion Aslan Karatsev has suffered a jaw-dropping loss of form in the last few weeks. Karatsev could quite easily go down to Mackenzie McDonald if recent results are anything to go by. But maybe a return to Dubai could spark him into life. It could end up being an all-Russian meeting in the last eight (they met in the semifinals in 2021) but with a very different outcome this time.
Quarterfinal prediction: Rublev (2) vs Karatsev (7)

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