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Djokovic aims to take Roger Federer’s title

Novak Djokovic’s first tournament since his successful defence of the Australian Open title offers him a chance to show why he could remain the world number one for the foreseeable future.

The 25-year-old Serbian’s triumph in Melbourne saw him avenge a defeat in the US Open final to his most contemporary rival, Andy Murray, making him an even stronger favourite to win back the title at the Dubai Open, which starts on Monday.

To do that Djokovic will probably need to overcome the man who took it away from him, Roger Federer, the world number two, who has a home in Dubai, often plays outstandingly well here, and has won the title five times. Even if Federer were to triumph for a sixth time, it is hard to see him making up his 3,000-point gap with Djokovic because he has settled on a more limited schedule to preserve himself in his 32nd year.

Neither Murray, nor Rafael Nadal, whose future remains uncertain, are competing in Dubai this year, which means a continuation of the Djokovic-Federer rivalry, which shows a 16-13 head-to-head in favour of the older man, is the most likely scenario.

‘I’ve had an incredible run here over the years but I have got to be really focused and confident about my own form and hope to start well,’ Federer said, referring obliquely to his Dubai debacle five years ago. Then, as defending champion, he was landed with a first round against Murray, and fell at the first hurdle. This time he has a more fortunate-looking opener, against Malek Jaziri, a wild card player from Tunisia.

It may quickly get tougher though, for Federer has a possible quarterfinal with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, his conqueror at Wimbledon in 2011, and a possible semifinal with Tomas Berdych, who beat him at Wimbledon in 2010 and at US Open last year. Djokovic has appeared very relaxed in Dubai, swimming with turtles while not training, but he could have a dangerous semifinal with Juan Martin Del Potro, the former US Open champion from Argentina.  Del Potro though does not arrive until the early hours of Sunday, having flown from the Marseille Open, and will have a far-from-easy start against Marcos Baghdatis, the former Australian Open finalist.


FEDERER BRISTLED A LITTLE WHEN

DUBAI: Roger Federer bristled a little when it was suggested to him that his days as world number one might be at an end because of his reduced schedule, and only a few seconds were needed for him to knock that idea back. The 31-year-old top-ranking record-holder is only planning to play 14 tournaments this year, even dropping his home town tournament in Basel and the Miami tournament which has sometimes been described as the biggest outside the four Grand Slams. Federer, who is now world number two, is already more than 4000 ranking points behind the leader Novak Djokovic, whose total is 40 percent more than the Swiss legend. This means that the chances of the sport’s greatest legend adding to his record total of 302 weeks at top would appear to be significantly reduced. ‘It’s definitely realistic if I’m playing great, but I need to play absolutely great,’ he said, before expressing his doubts.
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