Dubai delight for Federer
Our tennis expert Derek Bilton is tipping Roger Federer for glory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.
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A stellar field has assembled in Dubai this week for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.
The top two players in the world are involved and for Novak Djokovic, this is his first tournament since landing the Australian Open in some style last month.
The 25-year-old looked imperious in Melbourne and his magnificent conditioning, coupled with his speed around the court and shot-making ability suggest he could rule the ATP roost for some years to come.
He has a corker of a draw in Dubai as well, with only Juan Martin Del Potro (who has played a lot of tennis in recent weeks) looking like a realistic test prior to the final.
The Argentine former US Open champion has a game to be respected, but flies in here after a tough couple of weeks in Europe and he could be weary.
Djokovic looks the logical choice, but I am loathe to get involved at 4/5 when you consider Roger Federer is situated in the other half of the draw, a man who has a record that is second to none in Dubai.
The Swiss has won five titles here and even owns a home in the UAE city-state, so he should be pumped to register his first tournament win of 2013. Federer was stunned by Julien Benneteau in Rotterdam the other week, and has a 7-2 record this season.
However he remains the world number two and you write the winner of 76 ATP titles off at your peril.
Djokovic-Federer matches are always a bit special, yet for all the Serb's dominance in recent years on the Tour it is worth remembering that the Swiss has won 16 of their 29 meetings.
Federer is admittedly in the tougher half of the draw but the two main threats to him, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, both contested the Open 13 final in Marseille on Sunday so might not be 100% this week.
The Fed Express should have no problems getting past a Tunisian qualifier in his first match, and if he can grow from there I really like the look of current 100/30 quotes.
At Delray Beach, rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori is the betting jolly to win the International Tennis Championships. Nishikori is a real handful on hard courts and is in good form having streaked to the final in Memphis last week (at time of writing he is set to face Feliciano Lopez) without losing a set.
A fast, tenacious battler, the 23-year-old looks to have a big future in the game if he can stay healthy and motivated.
The top two seeds at the event are John Isner and Tommy Haas but neither men looked impressive in Memphis so I am going to row in with an outsider this week in the shape of Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The fifth seed has had a frustrating start to the year and is just 3-2 this season but he is a genuine talent and a player with the ability to just go on a run from nowhere.
'Dolgo' was a quarter-finalist in Memphis and if he can get that first serve percentage a bit higher I expect the 23-year-old to start making the business end of these type of events far more frequently.
The Ukraine maverick has an unorthodox style and plays a lot of 'junk' tennis, but he hits a flat ball and is a very dangerous operator when in the mood.
He gets a tough opener in Ivan Dodig, but if he comes through that his draw opens up a bit and current 16/1 odds would surely hit single figures.
He has two ATP titles to his name already and has won in America before having conquered the field in Washington in August of last year.
Finally Rafael Nadal heads to Mexico for the final leg of his South American clay swing when he bids for a repeat win in Acapulco, a title he won in 2008.
In two outings this season he has made a final in Chile and won in Brazil but 'The Pearl of Manacor' told ESPN recent that "the knee is not perfect".
He is an unsurprising odds-on shot here but he is definitely one to swerve for me. It seems almost absurd saying that given Nadal's record on the red stuff but his main focus now will surely be getting himself right for Monte Carlo and then of course fine tuning his game for a defence of his French Open title in May.