The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships draw is in, and it's Federer's return to the Aviation Club after missing last year's event due to the torn meniscus.
Not many of us expected he'd be taking to the court having just won the Australian Open which still feels somewhat surreal but he's heading into the tournament with plenty confidence. Combine that with Dubai being a happy hunting ground over the years (including defeating Djokovic in his last outing here in the 2015 final) I expect he will have a good tournament.
The Swiss said in an interview earlier this week he's not been able to practise at full tilt because of a leg problem, so there are a few question marks over his overall fitness, but we'll probably learn more about that once he has played his first match. You can see his projected opponents below:
Federer's Projected Opponents
- Round 1: Benoit Paire
- Round 2: Mikhail Youzhny
- Quarter Final: Lucas Pouille
- Semi Final: Sir Andy Murray
- Final: Stan Wawrinka
Thoughts On The Draw
First up is Benoit Paire whom Roger has defeated comfortably in their three previous encounters. Paire is flashy, has moments of brilliance like most French players but doesn't have the consistency week in and week out. He's capable of competing against anyone, but when Roger makes him play every point, I don't fancy his chances.
Round 2 will either be Mikhail Youzhny or a Qualifier. Youzhny has no real form to speak of and has retired from 2 of his matches already this year so you can't see him causing too many problems. There are a few names in qualifying that are likely to beat him as well, so it's anyone guess who Fed may face in the 2nd Round.
Into the Quarters and Pouille is the projected opponent. He's another guy out of form after a recent injury, but he's in the Semi Finals of Marseille later today against Gasquet. Pouille practised heavily with Fed in Dubai during the offseason, so they know each others game well. The Frenchman had some decent wins last year and should prove a tough test if they meet.
Murray is in Federer's half, so the World Number 1 is the semi-final opponent. He's not played since his shock loss to Mischa Zverev in Australia, but he has a good draw. Jaziri can be a danger if he catches fire in the opener, but it's unlikely he sustains his big shotmaking over three sets.
As for the final Wawrinka is the top seed in the other half and he's the defending champion. He's had knee problems since Australia, so again question marks surround his fitness. Quick courts aren't his favourite either so I'm not sure who comes through that side – Bautista-Agut, Monfils, Verdasco and Berdych are all likely finalists there.
I'm expecting a few surprise results as on paper it looks wide open. Murray hasn't played any tennis, Stan has had a knee problem, Federer has just won a slam but has spent more time in the mountains than on the practice courts and still has a lingering groin issue, so I think it is anyone's to win.
I reckon Fed will make the Semi Final's and hopefully faces off against Murray, should be a good encounter if this surface is playing how it normally does.
What do you think of the draw? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.