Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Exciting trio who could pose a threat to Novak Djokovic

Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, and Felix Auger-Aliassime have emphatically picked up the gauntlet and shown that they are willing to fight for their place in tennis’ hallowed spotlight



Andrey Rublev at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year. — KT file
Andrey Rublev at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year. — KT file
by

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Sun 26 Feb 2023, 8:31 PM

Last updated: Mon 27 Feb 2023, 12:41 PM

The depth and talent in men’s tennis has improved considerably with each passing year and there are more quality players on the ATP tour than ever before.

While Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have set the gold standard for others to aim at, players like Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, and Felix Auger-Aliassime have emphatically picked up the gauntlet and shown that they are willing to fight for their place in tennis’ hallowed spotlight.

It is no coincidence, that but for Nadal, all of them will be in action during this week's 31st edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The Spaniard was set to return to Dubai for the first time after a gap of 15 years before a muscle injury that he suffered after his second-round loss at last month’s Australian Open, ruled him out.

But Rublev, the defending champion and world No.5, Medvedev, and Auger-Aliassime, who made history as the third-youngest player to enter the Top 10, pose a genuine threat to Djokovic’s hopes of lifting the iconic trophy that is presented to the winner.

While Rublev wastes no time to launch his title defence on Monday when he takes on world No.67 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Medvedev, and Auger-Aliassime will take to the new DecoTruf show courts at the Aviation Club Tennis Stadium on Tuesday, February 28.

Second seed at this year's tournament, Rublev did well to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open where he lost to Djokovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. The Russian star, who is ranked No.5 in the world, will have to cope with Krajinovic’s aggressive style of play, which is based on a tenacious backhand.

The Serb has not made the best start to the season and is sure to come out firing on all cylinders as he hopes to find his form that will help him stay competitive.

However, he will have a bit of history on his side as he leads Rublev 3-2 in their current head-to-head matches.

Rubalev flew into Dubai after suffering a shock loss to Czech player Jiri Lehecka in Doha and will also hope to rescue his power-packed baseline-oriented game at the Championships.

Daniil Medvedev. — AFP
Daniil Medvedev. — AFP

Medvedev has been touted as the player who can challenge the top guns and he begins his Dubai campaign against Italian rookie Mattee Arnaldi, a 22-year-old from San Remo, Italy, who is yet to sample success on the tour.

The Russian brings winning form to Dubai having only two days ago won the 17th title of his career when beating Andy Murray in two sets.

Medvedev enjoyed a stellar season in 2021 where he defeated Djokovic to win the US Open, his first Grand Slam title.

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime. — AFP
Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime. — AFP

Auger-Aliassime will take on French-American Maxime Cressy, who is currently ranked No.37 in the world, in his first-round match on Tuesday.

The exciting Canadian player started the year with a straight-sets defeat to former Dubai kid Alexei Popyrin at the Adelaide International.

However, he bounced back strongly to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing to Jiri Lehecka in four sets.

More recently, Auger-Aliassime defeated Jason Kubler and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to reach the semifinals of the Qatar Open but ran into Medvedev for the second time in as many weeks.

Cressy, who reached the second round of the Australian Open, picked up his form to finish runner-up at the Open Sud de France.

Cressy leads Auger-Aliassime 1-0 in the head-to-head having won their previous encounter in the first round at Wimbledon in 2022.

Cressy, who has a high first serve record, looked the more comfortable at the All England Club and did not allow Auger-Aliassime to break him even one.

Given the history of our three chosen players who can make an impact in Dubai this week, it backs up the claim that there are more players under 30 years of age who are capable of winning on any day, seeded or not.

Many other among the 32 players in Dubai have also been punching above their weight illustrating that the youngsters of today are a gifted bunch which makes for an exciting week at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.


More news from Sports