Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Djokovic meets wildcard Musetti in first match since Australian Open saga

Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. — Supplied photo
Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. — Supplied photo

Dubai - Djokovic has won five titles in Dubai — from 2009 to 2011, 2013 and 2020 and was runner-up to Roger Federer in 2015


James Jose

Published: Sat 19 Feb 2022, 2:08 PM

Last updated: Sat 19 Feb 2022, 11:02 PM

Top seed and world No.1 Serbian Novak Djokovic will take on wildcard Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in his first match since the Australian open saga, at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships starting next week.

The draw for the men’s tournament took place at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Saturday afternoon and the 20-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic will meet the world No.57 in the first round.

Djokovic has won five titles in Dubai — from 2009 to 2011, 2013 and 2020 and was runner-up to Swiss maestro Roger Federer in 2015.

Meanwhile, defending champion Aslan Karatsev of Russia, who is seeded seventh here, will take on American Mackenzie McDonald in the opening round.

Second seed and world No.7 Andrey Rublev of Russia meets Great Britain’s Daniel Evans.

"There's not so much to talk about!” Musetti laughed and said at the draw about the test that awaits him, with the whole tennis world watching.

“Of course, everyone (in the draw) is really tough but I was not a lucky one. But I think it is going to be a really nice experience to play on Centre Court with a full crowd. So, I will try to enjoy it and I will try to take revenge for Roland Garros from last year,” he added.

This will be their second meeting after the 19-year-old blew a two-set lead at Roland Garros last year and had to retire from the round of 16 match due to cramps, while trailing 0-4 in the deciding fifth set.

All eyes will be on his match against Djokovic, for obvious reasons, and while the pressure would be unimaginable for the young gun, Musetti was delighted to have crowds back in attendance. The tournament will run at full capacity in what will be a blockbuster week following on from the women’s event.

“It has been a year playing without crowds and we know the difference. I have good memories and I played qualifiers here and I remember I came through and I played my first match against Rublev,” Musetti recalled.

The pair had met in the first round in Dubai two years ago.

“My target at the moment is to just play and get more experience, play better and to improve each day,” he added.


Apart from Musetti, Arab star Tunisian Malek Jaziri too was handed a wildcard along with Great Britain’s Andy Murray, the 2017 champion and 2012 runner-up.

Jaziri, who had previously gone up against tough opponents like Federer, Djokovic and Murray in the opening rounds, was handed a kinder draw this time with the 38-year-old taking on Serbian Filip Krajinovic.

“I want to thank Salah Tahlak (tournament director) for giving me a wildcard and the opportunity. It is always a pleasure to play here in Dubai. The tournament gets some of the best players in the world. It is always special to play here and there are a lot of Tunisian fans, a lot of Arab fans supporting me here. So it is a great opportunity for me,” said Jaziri.

“All of them in the draw are good players and it is not easy to play them. Musetti was supposed to practice with Novak and I was supposed to practice with Krajinovic so we (him and Musetti) will probably have to practice together,” he laughed.

Meanwhile, Murray goes up against a qualifier, while 2018 champion Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, seeded eighth here, meets Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech.

“I’m happy to say during these 30 years, we have had more than 20 world No.1s participate in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“We are expecting a big turnout because the crowd is back to 100 percent capacity and word has been spreading over the last week about the increase in capacity. We have had in excess of 26,000 people attend the tennis so far and we are expecting to break the 30,000 mark,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tahlak said: “It is our 30th year and it is a great milestone that we have achieved and we are looking to do more and more in the future.”

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