Dubai Tennis: Thiem begins against qualifier; former ball boy gets wildcard
The world number four will also be bidding to become the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1997 to lift the Dubai trophy
US Open champion Dominic Thiem will open his campaign at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships against a qualifier. The top seed from Austria will be seeking the 18th title of his career and his first crown since he lifted his maiden Grand Slam title last year.
The world number four will also be bidding to become the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1997 to lift the Dubai trophy.
But Thiem fell in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut in his only previous Dubai appearance six years ago.
He will be wary of meeting Agut again as the Spaniard upset him just days ago in the Doha quarterfinals.
Thiem will not be disappointed if they do meet again this week, however, as the draw means they could only meet in Saturday's final.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 Dubai champion who was at the official player’s draw on Saturday, has withdrawn from the tournament due to fatigue.
Bautista Agut, winner of the Dubai event in 2018, will be among the top contenders again, having made an impressive run at the Qatar Open.
Second seeded Andrey Rublev will also start against a qualifier or Jordan Thompson. Third seed Denis Shapovalov will play either a qualifier or Jan-Lennard Struff, and fourth seeded Bautista Agut begins against Matthew Ebden in the second round
Meanwhile, Russian Aslan Karatsev, who rose to fame on Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open last month by reaching the semifinals after coming though the qualifying rounds, has received a wildcard for the Dubai event.
"We have also given wild cards this week to Denis Novak, who recently reached the quarterfinals in Montpellier and Malek Jaziri who made a fantastic run to the semifinals here in 2018,” said Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director.
Remarkably, Australia’s Alexei Popyrin, the fourth player to have received a wildcard for this week’s event, was a ball boy at the Dubai tennis 10 years ago.
"Since we started our tournament 29 years ago, we have had 17 winners, many of whom were ranked number 1 in the world. Our team at the Dubai Duty Free has worked very, very hard because it’s very different this year, and I am sure it’s going to be another successful week, like the way the women’s week has just finished,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.
“We have been praised very much for the organization, the safety regulations, the testing, the bubble and everything. I can assure everyone that you will have a very safe week ahead."
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