Roger Federer may have been bundled out of the Australian Open early this year, but he will return to Dubai next month to continue one of the fiercest rivalries in sport.
The defending and six-time Dubai champion will once again battle with reigning world number one and four-time Dubai title holder Novak Djokovic, when play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships commences in just a few weeks’ time.
Incredibly, the talented twosome have between them claimed the coveted trophy in 10 of the last 12 years stretching back to 2003, with only Rafael Nadal in 2006 and Andy Roddick in 2008 breaking their stranglehold.
The pair have clashed a remarkable 36 times throughout their careers, and Federer narrowly leads their rivalry with 19 wins against the 17 earned by Djokovic. Their first meeting came in Monte Carlo in 2006 and, in a sign of the outstanding battles that were to come, that match went to three sets before Federer prevailed.
Their first clash in Dubai occurred as long as eight years ago, in 2007, with Federer needing over two hours to come through their quarter-final in three sets. The next time they met in Dubai was not until the 2011 final, when Djokovic defeated Federer in straight sets to claim his third consecutive Dubai title. Federer finally regained his crown the following year after Djokovic fell to Andy Murray in the semi-finals, before they met again in the 2014 semi-finals which defending champion Djokovic conceded in three sets in a Centre Court thriller.
“Well, great to him for coming back in the match. Congratulations,” said Djokovic after seeing his one-set lead evaporate. “He deserved to win. He played in the second part of the match better and was more aggressive and played all around the court really well.”
Federer credited the fantastic atmosphere created by the sell-out crowd for inspiring him to victory.
“I think it was a very enthusiastic crowd, polite crowd, and it was a dream playing in an atmosphere like this,” he said. “I mean, they were already trying to create a Mexican wave about five games in. I don’t know if that was because Novak was leading or to pump me up. But anyway, I thought it was a great atmosphere.”
Federer has since gone on to join an ultra-elite group of players who have earned 1000 wins on the ATP World Tour, achieved this month in Brisbane when he won his 83rd tour-level title. He follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl as the only players in the Open Era (since 1968) to have reached the 1,000 match wins milestone.
“We are thrilled that two of the greatest players of the century have chosen to continue their extraordinary rivalry at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “Roger Federer has been coming here since 2002 and Novak Djokovic since 2007, and the pair have never failed to provide anything other than the very highest standard of competition. It will be fascinating to see if they can continue their recent monopoly of winning the title here, and which one will be successful if they do.”
With so many of the world’s best once again competing in Dubai, Federer and Djokovic know that they will need to be at their very best right from their opening match if they are to have any chance of continuing their remarkable success at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
“Despite their elite status, both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have experienced disappointing results in Dubai over the years, and neither will take any match lightly,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Tomas Berdych has reached the final here in the past two years, beating Federer in the semi-finals in 2013, but he is only part of the outstanding competition that will bid to end the winning streak that has been shared over such a long period.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features eight of the world’s top 10, including world number one Serena Williams, defending champion Venus Williams, former winners Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, and French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.