Federer, Djokovic Headline Dubai Tennis Masters

Steve Schy | Washington

February 20, 2011

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World number-two Roger Federer of Switzerland and third-ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic renew their rivalry this week at the Dubai Tennis Championships in the United Arab Emirates. The top-seeded Federer will be looking for revenge against Djokovic, who beat him in the semifinals of the Australian Open on his way to winning the title at the opening Grand Slam event of the 2011 season.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic comes into the Dubai Tennis Championships with a lot of confidence. In addition to winning the tournament the past two years, the second-seeded Serbian is also the Australian Open champion, and he says he is glad to be back in Dubai.

"Of course to be able to come back to the city where you won the last two years in a row, of course it makes it even more exciting," he said. "It is a big pleasure."

Roger Federer's 2011 season is also off to a strong start, after winning in Doha at the beginning of the year and reaching the semifinals in Melbourne. The Swiss star, who has won this Masters 500 tournament four times, says it is never easy to claim the title.

"The great players that are here every year, there is always usually five to seven, eight, top-10 players that show up here in Dubai and make it a really tough tournament to win," said Federer.

But it may be a little easier than usual this year, with world number-one Spaniard Rafael Nadal and fifth-ranked Andy Murray of Scotland out with injuries and number-eight Andy Roddick of the United States skipping the event that begins Monday. Federer, who turns 30 in August, has been in Dubai for the past week to get ready for the tournament.

"Preparing, obviously, is a big thing in tennis," he said. "Trying to gear up to play your best five straight days, which is obviously very challenging."

Federer leads Djokovic, 23, 13-7 in their all-time head-to-head meetings. But the Serbian comes into Dubai with the momentum and confidence that his career will continue its upward climb.

"I want to win more Grand Slams and I want to achieve my lifetime goal, which is to be number one in the world," he said. "I am being very ambitious, but it always has been my goal and I know that I can do it. I know I have qualities and you know, it is going to come."

But a Djokovic and Federer showdown in the final is still a long way away. To make it happen, they must work their way through a tough field that includes third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, number-four seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic and Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus among others.