Dubai 2020: Federer and Djokovic to headline starry line-up in the desert
Barty, Pliskova, Halep among six of top 10 to challenge defending champ Bencic
Swiss pair Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic will aim to defend their 2019 titles at this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships amid one of the best line-ups in the tournament’s history.
For the 20th anniversary of the WTA event, there will be three of the current top four, including world No1 Ashleigh Barty, six of the top 10—No7 Bencic among them—and 14 of the world’s top 20. In the list are the four reigning Major champions in Naomi Osaka (Australian Open), Barty (French Open), Simona Halep (Wimbledon), and Bianca Andreescu (US Open).
The anniversary week will be followed by a star-studded ATP event which features defending and eight-time champion Federer, and four-time champion and reigning Australian and Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic.
They head a strong field that also boasts 2019 runner-up, Stefanos Tsitsipas, plus world No9 and 2018 champion, Roberto Bautista Agut.
Barty enjoyed a stand-out 2019 which not only sent her to world No1 but also claimed her first Major crown at Roland Garros. She then closed out the year by winning the WTA Finals trophy.
Former No1 and two-time Major champion Halep will bid to reclaim the Dubai crown she won in 2015. Chosen as the ‘2019 WTA Fan Favourite’ for a third straight year, she is one of the most popular players on the WTA Tour, and became the first Romanian to win a Wimbledon singles title when she beat Serena Williams in the final last summer.
At the end of 2018, Andreescu was ranked 152 with no titles to her name, but she ended 2019 ranked fifth with the US Open, Indian Wells and Toronto titles.
Bencic beat four top-10 opponents on her way to the Dubai title last year, and added a further seven wins over top-10 players during last season, reaching the semis of both the US Open and the WTA Finals for the first time.
Djokovic last won the Dubai title in 2013, having played the tournament every year from 2007 to 2016. The last time that he and Federer both featured in the men’s draw, however, was when they contested the 2015 title. Federer went on to win that showdown, and he then beat Tsitsipas in last year’s final to claim his 100th career title.
The exciting young Greek Tsitsipas began 2019 by beating Federer at the Australian Open and making his first Major semi-final, and he ended with the ATP Finals trophy, again beating Federer. He also beat Djokovic in Shanghai and Rafael Nadal in Madrid.
But while much attention will fall on Djokovic, Federer and Tsitsipas this year, no-one should overlook the threat of Bautista Agut, who in 2019 enjoyed the best season of his career. Finishing inside the top 10 for the first time, he played a key role as Spain emerged triumphant from the Davis Cup Finals, reached a first Major semi-final at Wimbledon, and beat Djokovic in both their hard-court meetings. And he started 2020 with a clean sheet through six singles matches in the ATP Cup.
Also in the draw are No10 Gael Monfils, No12 Fabio Fognini, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, who is competing in Dubai for the first time in six years, and Dan Evans, who reached a career-high No33 this week.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships get under way with the WTA stars from 17 to 22 February, with the men taking to the courts from 24 to 29 February. Tickets are available online at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge