This week's Duty Free Dubai Open tennis tournament boasts an impressive field, including six of the top 20 players on the ATP Tour this year.
The new ATP Tour Champions Race, which reflects a player's performance in the current calendar year, replaces the old ranking system, based on a player's achievements over the previous 12 months.
Highlighting this year's field is German Nicolas Kiefer, last year's runner-up who now ranks seventh in the Champions Race. In a controversial decision, Kiefer announced that he would bypass Davis Cup competition this year to focus on his individual career. He reached the quarterfinals at last month's Australian Open and is now extremely focused on winning this week's event. The tournament's second seed is Sweden's Magnus Norman, one of the hottest players on the tour. Already in 2000 Norman won in Auckland and reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, dispatching of Kiefer along the way.
Three Moroccan players will be competing in Dubai, all of whom have become forces to reckon with on the ATP Tour. Younes El Aynaoui, Hicham Arazi and Karim Alami all qualified directly for the main draw. El Aynaoui and Arazi both reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
The Black brothers from Zimbabwe, Byron and Wayne, will try to rebound this week from their recent Davis Cup heartbreak. Last weekend, the two led Zimbabwe against the American Davis Cup squad, headed by world number one Andre Agassi. Leading 2-1 going into Sunday's final two matches, Agassi and Chris Woodruff scored dramatic victories against the Black brothers. If both players win their opening matches, the siblings would meet each other in the second round.
The Duty Free Dubai Open has been held annually since 1993. Previous winners include Jerome Golmard, Alex Corretja, Goran Ivanisevic and Wayne Ferreira. Judging by the quality of players in this year's draw, 2000 champion will only add to the impressive list of past winners.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)