Top Arab player Malek Jaziri was handed out a somewhat cruel draw when his name was pulled out to take on top seed and world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov in their opening round match of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open, which gets under way on Monday.
Jaziri, who is currently world No. 116, was given a wild card once again and tournament director Salah Tahlak was expectantly looking forward to a second week of excitement following Saturday night’s women’s finals.
“The men’s week has always been one of the fastest to pass us by. We’ve got some great match-ups coming up in the first two days of Round One, but this match between local boy Jaziri and the top seed will definitely be the highlight for the start of the men’s competition,” Tahlak told Gulf News.
The men’s draws were conducted at the Majlis of the tennis stadium on Saturday in the presence of Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, along with players Marcos Baghdatis, Borna Coric, Robin Haase and Yuichi Sugita, Tournament Director Salah Tahlak, Nasser Yousuf, General Secretary of Tennis Emirates, and ATP Supervisor Gerry Armstrong.
Though much of the attention will be on the clash between Dimitrov and Jaziri, there will be other Round One matches that promise to be just as engrossing. Baghdatis will play Serbia’s Viktor Troicki while third seed Roberto Bautista Agut will be up against Florian Mayer and fifth seed Richard Gasquet from France will take on exciting youngster Borna Coric.
McLoughlin remarked that Dubai Duty Free had grown in tandem with the tournament. “When we started off with the tennis, our annual sales stood at $150 million [Dh548 million], but last year we had crossed $1.93 billion in sales,” he noted.
“And today we have a young player Alexei Popyrin, who used to be a ball kid here, go on to defeat one of the top players [Marcel Granollers] in the first round of qualifying. You can just imagine what a moment it will be for him [Popyrin] if he wins the next match and enters the main rounds,” McLoughlin added.
Owned and organised by the DDF, the event is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The second and final round of qualifying will be held at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium from 11 am, while the main round will commence from 2 pm on Monday.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has won a total of 35 ATP/WTA awards since its inception of the men’s tournament in 1993 and the women’s event in 2001. The men’s event has won the ATP 500 tournament of the Year award 11 times since 2003. The award is voted on by the players on the ATP.
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