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Fans’ guide to the week: February 22-28


 

Originally published on: 05/03/10 18:12

Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships

When? February 22-28
Where? Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Event type? ATP World Tour 500
Surface? Hard
Prizemoney? €1,619,500
2009 champ? Novak Djokovic
Draw size? S-32 D-16
Web: www.barclaysdubaitennischampionships.com

Lowdown: Roger Federer’s absence is a blow to tournament organisers after the world No.1 pulled out with a lung infection on Sunday. A four-time champion in Dubai, Federer will now have to wait until the PNB Paribas Open to play his first ATP tournament since capturing a fourth Australian Open title in January.

“I’m hoping to be back for Indian Wells,” said Federer on Sunday. “But of course there are no promises.

“I can’t take any chances until I’m fit again.”

In the meantime, Spaniard Tommy Robredo will replace the Swiss maestro in Dubai, opening his account against Frenchman Julien Benneteau.

Five of the world’s top 10 will compete at The Aviation Club in Dubai this week, with Novak Djokovic facing a tough ask to defend his 2009 title amid the presence of Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Marin Cilic.

Djokovic defeated David Ferrer in the final of the 2009 event and the top seed opens his campaign for a second title against 26-year-old Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

World No.4 Murray made the quarter-finals in Dubai last year and a run beyond that stage this week would see him usurp Rafael Nadal to reclaim the world No.3 ranking.

But the Australian Open finalist has suffered from painful knees, a sore back and trouble with his hip since his Melbourne run – a large part of the reason for his late withdrawal from the Marseille Open that so annoyed tournament organisers – and has only recently returned to the gym.

In-form Croat Marin Cilic – in Murray’s side of the draw – might therefore fancy his chances of a third ATP Tour title in two months to add to the Chennai and Zagreb titles he has already picked up in 2010. The 21-year-old holds a 15-1 win/loss record this year, with his solitary loss to the Scot in Melbourne the only blotch on an otherwise flawless season.

In similarly good form is the tournament’s 2008 semi-finalist Nikolay Davydenko who, with the Doha title and 12 wins to his name already this season, will hope to compliment his recent form with a second title in as many months.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel

When? February 22-28
Where? Acapulco, Mexico
Event type? ATP World Tour 500
Surface? Clay
Prizemoney? €955,000
2009 champ? Nicolas Almagro
Draw size? S-32 D-16
Web http://abiertomextenis.com.mx/

Lowdown: Yards from the Revolcadero Beach on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, the Abierto Mexicano Telcel boasts one of the most breathtaking venues of any of the 11 ATP Tour 500 events.

Those looking to impress as much as the scenery include the two Fernando’s – Verdasco and Gonzalez, David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, John Isner and last year’s back-to-back titilist Nicolas Almagro.

World No.27 Almagro beat Frenchman Gael Monfils to claim the 2009 title, and returns to Acapulco with a hat-trick in mind, not least to avoid a slide down the rankings.

Spaniard Verdasco accepted a late wildcard entry and will aim to improve on his 2004 debut appearance in Acapulco that culminated in a final defeat to Carlos Moya.

Amid a host of clay court specialists, Juan Carlos Ferrero has bounced back impressively from his slow start to the year in Australia to claim consecutive tournament wins on the red stuff.

The world No.16 last week added to his victory at the Brasil Open when he defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer to clinch the Copa Telmex title in Buenos Aires, more than making up for his opening match defeats in Auckland and Melbourne.

The Buenos Aires win signalled his 10th clay-court tour-level title, and you wouldn’t be a fool to back him for an 11th in Mexico.

Delray Beach International Tennis Championships

When? February 22-28
Where? Delray Beach, USA
Event type? ATP World Tour 250
Surface? Hard
Prizemoney? $442,500
2009 champ? Mardy Fish
Draw size? S-32 D-16
Web http://www.yellowtennisball.com/online/

Lowdown: Mardy Fish faces a tough ask to repeat his 2009 title, given that the defending champ is not even seeded for this year’s draw.

Evgeny Korolev – the man Fish defeated in last year’s final – is seeded fifth and will aim to go beyond the second round for only the second time in five tournaments this year.

The world No.46 has never won an ATP event, but has fond memories of Delray Beach since it became the first (and only) ATP tour final appearance of his career last year.

Frenchman Jeremy Chardy’s Memphis win over Fernando Verdasco last week might give him confidence to replicate his 2009 run to the semi-finals in Delray.

The 22-year-old had a disastrous start to the year up until his scalp of the Spaniard, having lost in straight sets in the first round of his first four tournaments in 2010 to far lesser ranked players.

Top seed Tommy Haas won the title in 2006 and returns to Delray for his fourth tournament of the year. The 31-year-old German might be more concerned with upping his win rate this year than searching for a 13th career title, having won just three matches to three losses so far this season.

Also in the mix in Delray are Ivo Karlovic, Benjamin Becker Florian Mayer and American’s James Blake and Michael Russell.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel presented by HSBC

When? February 22-27
Where? Acapulco, Mexico
Event type? WTA International
Surface? Clay/Outdoors
2009 champ? Venus Williams
Draw size? S-32 D-16
Web http://abiertomextenis.com.mx/

Lowdown: The heavily hyped 2009 final was all over rather quickly as as top seed Venus Williams trounced second seed Flavia Pennetta 6-1 6-2 in only an hour and two minutes.

Pennetta, a two-time champion and six-time finalist will launch an assault on a third title this week.

Malaysian Open 2010

When? February 22-28
Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Event type? WTA International
Surface? Hard, outdoors
Prizemoney? €220,000
Draw size? S-32 D-16
Web http://www.malaysianwomensopen.com/

Lowdown: The Malaysian Open is one of three new additions to the WTA Tour calendar in 2010 along with tournaments in Copenhagen and San Diego.

Elena Dementieva headlines the event and is gunning for a third title of the season to add to her victories in Sydney and Paris.

Li Na and Zheng Jie became the first Chinese players to make the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, and are seeded second and third respectively for the hard court event.

Alisia Kleybanova, seeded fourth, will be keen to finally turn her powerful groundstrokes into a WTA title since, at world No.31, she is the highest ranked female player not to have a WTA singles title to her name.

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