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ATP Dubai 2019 draw preview and predictions: Federer on collision course with Raonic, Bautista Agut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 23 Feb 2019
  • Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic lead the field at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • In-form Roberto Bautista Agut, unseeded, aims to defend his ATP Dubai title
  • Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships tennis is live from Dubai from 25 February-2 March
Roger Federer leads the field at the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Roger Federer goes for an eighth title at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships but has the draw done him any favours?

Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer, Marin Cilic and Stefanos Tsitsipas lead the field at the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, live from 25 February-2 March, where a packed draw could lead to some unpredictable results.

Seven-time champion Federer lost before the quarterfinals on his last appearance at the 500-level event – could a pair of dangerous veterans mount a similarly successful challenge to the second seed in 2019? If he makes it to the quarterfinals, Milos Raonic awaits, but Federer’s draw looks like an absolute cakewalk compared to that given to struggling fourth seed Karen Khachanov; while Marin Cilic, the third seed, has to open against Gael Monfils and Kei Nishikori and Stefanos Tsitsipas are set for a quarterfinal clash. Who is in position to capture the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title in 2019?

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Kei Nishikori (1) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) (1-0)

Kei Nishikori (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
World no. 6 Kei Nishikori makes his Dubai debut as he looks to build on what has been a very successful start to the year. After coming back from a wrist injury in 2018 to re-enter the top 10, Nishikori has gone 11-2 so far in 2019, ending a long title drought by winning the Brisbane International and reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, where he narrowly lost to Stan Wawrinka.

With Benoit Paire, who has been booed off court by the crowd in two of his last three events, as a first-round opponent, Nishikori’s early rounds in Dubai should be fairly smooth as he moves on to face Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz or a qualifier in the second. 

Things are a bit dicier for fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who hasn’t been doing very well in the aftermath of his Australian Open semifinal run but looks to have got back on track a bit with a semifinal run in Marseille this week. With a quick transition to make, Australia’s Matthew Ebden in the first round and the powerful Robin Haase, a Dubai semifinalist in 2017, a potential second-round opponent, I don’t think Tsitsipas will make it to what would be an enticing quarterfinal clash with Nishikori, clearing the path for the top seed to reach the semifinals at least.

Semifinalist: Nishikori 

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Marin Cilic (3) vs Daniil Medvedev (8) (0-0)

Marin Cilic (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s been a slow start to 2019 for Marin Cilic, who has only played one event – the Australian Open – thanks to a knee injury and was knocked out in the round of 16 by Roberto Bautista Agut there, ending his hopes of repeating 2018’s run to the final.

Hopefully fit to get going in Dubai, where he made the quarterfinals twice about a decade ago, Cilic – who assisted with the draw and joked that he wanted to do it again after finding out where he had landed – faces an immediate challenge: His first-round opponent is Gael Monfils, who not only leads their head-to-head 3-0 but is on great form after a title run in Rotterdam.

Should Monfils beat Cilic, and I think he will, the Frenchman looks set to reach the quarterfinals, with 2016 finalist Marcos Baghdatis – a wildcard – the probable second-round opponent.

Eighth seed Daniil Medvedev also has a title to his name so far in 2019, having triumphed in Sofia, and his draw looks much smoother – a qualifier, then probably Matteo Berrettini (whom he beat in the Sofia semifinals) in the second round. Monfils and Medvedev have split matches on indoor hard courts so far in 2019 – who will win this third installment of a burgeoning rivalry?

Semifinalist: Medvedev

Third quarter

Roberto Bautista Agut is the defending champion in Dubai (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Borna Coric (6) vs Karen Khachanov (4) (2-0)

Karen Khachanov finished 2018 on a high after winning his first Masters 1000 Series title in Paris, but so far 2019 has not gone to plan for the powerful Russian, with a 4-4 win-loss record and yet to score a win over a player ranked inside the top 50. 

Khachanov was prevented by illness from attempting to defend his Marseille title, too, so he really needs wins in Dubai – but it doesn’t look likely he’ll get them, because the draw has done him no favours: He starts against Nikoloz Basilashvili, who also isn’t getting great results in 2019 but won two 500 titles in 2018, with the winner to face Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard is not just the defending champion in Dubai, but won his first nine matches of 2019, including victories over Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Khachanov on his way to the Auckland title and Australian Open quarterfinals.

In the top section of this quarter, world no. 13 Borna Coric looks to make an impression for really the first time this season. A semifinalist in Dubai in 2015 and a quarterfinalist in 2018, the Croatian opens against Mikhail Kukushkin – who has to make a quick transition from the Marseille semifinals – but faces a very tough second-round clash with Tomas Berdych, a two-time Dubai finalist. Berdych vs Bautista Agut for the semifinals?

Semifinalist: Bautista Agut

Fourth quarter

Milos Raonic (KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Milos Raonic (7) vs Roger Federer (2) (3-11)

The most successful player in the tournament’s history, seven-time champion Roger Federer is back at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships once more, his first event since losing in the round of 16 to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open.

Down to world no. 7 as a result of failing to defend his title in Melbourne, Federer has a stellar 48-6 record in Dubai, but his only appearance at the tournament since winning his seventh title in 2015 ended in a surprise second-round defeat to Evgeny Donskoy in 2017. 

Is Federer in danger of another early exit? I shouldn’t think so. He opens against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, against whom he is 13-0, and is likely to face another veteran in the second round, 2017 Dubai runner-up Fernando Verdasco, against whom Federer has lost one set in six previous meetings (although they have not clashed since Dubai in 2015).

Milos Raonic had a great Australian Open, even if it ended in a somewhat meek defeat to Lucas Pouille, but he has pulled out of some events recently, although that may have been about over-ambitious scheduling rather than particularly struggling with injury. Playing Dubai for the first time, Raonic faces lanky Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round and could be up against Damir Dzumhur or Sofia runner-up Marton Fucsovics in the second – very manageable opponents for a fit Raonic, but is he fit? 

Semifinalist: Federer

Semifinals: Nishikori d. Medvedev
Bautista Agut d. Federer

Final: Bautista Agut d. Nishikori

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships tennis is live from Dubai from 25 February-2 March

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ATP Dubai 2019 draw preview and predictions: Federer on collision course with Raonic, Bautista Agut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: Roger Federer goes for an eighth ATP Dubai title with Kei Nishikori, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Borna Coric also in the field as well as defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut

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