Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dubai Preview

The Dubai Field is generally one of the strongest 500 level fields of the year, and once again claims many of the world's top players.  However, thanks to its generous appearance fees for the top players it's always a little top heavy, and this year is no different.  Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Berdych are your top 4 seeds, and there is a big gap between these four and the rest of the field.  The still winless in 2015 Gulbis is the 5th seeed, and Feliciano Lopez, Roberto Bautista-Agut and David Goffin round out your top eight.

In the top section, Djokovic should coast to the quarters where Feliciano Lopez likely awaits.  While the fast surface at Dubai will be beneficial for Lopez, he has never beaten Djokovic in five tries and only has taken a set on one occasion.  That won't change here, and Djokovic should get past Lopez without too much trouble. 

Berdych's first round opponent is Jeremy Chardy, who has one his first round match and lost his second at every tournament so far this year.  That trend won't continue in Dubai, as Berdych should get past Chardy in straights on his way to the semifinals.  Expect Sergiy Stakhovsky to be Berdych's quarterfinals opponent (taking the spot of the seriously struggling Gulbis), but not for him to put up much resistance against the Czech in the quarters.

In the next quarter, Andy Murray opens against Gilles Muller, who has been playing very well to start 2015.  Muller should be Murray's trickiest match on the way to the semis, as 8th seed David Goffin has struggled to maintain the momentum from his very strong 2014 campaign.  Muller may put up a good fight, but Murray's returning should neutralize Muller's biggest weapon.  No one else in this section will trouble Murray, and he'll make his way to the semifinals.

Federer's section has some talent, and potential second round opponent Guillermo Garcia- Lopez is off to a fine start in 2015.  The two surprisingly haven't played since 2009, and unlike Federer, Garcia-Lopez holds a win over Andreas Seppi in 2015.  Since it's boring to pick the top four to all make the semifinals, lets go with Garcia-Lopez with the major second round upset over the Swiss.  Garcia-Lopez will then take out Richard Gasquet to make the semis, who gets the edge out of the tricky section consisting of Gasquet, Seppi, Thiem and Bautista-Agut. 

While Berdych has been playing very well to start the year, Djokovic should once again be too much.  There's a reason Djokovic has a 17-2 edge in their head-to-head matchup, as Djokovic's stellar defense tends to neutralize Berdych's easy power.  Berdych may steal a set, but in the end Djokovic will find himself in the finals.

The last time Garcia-Lopez and Murray played the Spaniard won in straight sets.  His confidence will be high, but taking out Federer and Murray in the same week seems like asking for a bit much.  Murray should be over his Australian Open hangover by now, and gets the edge in three tough sets.

That makes the finals a rematch of the Australian Open finals, where Djokovic wore down Murray both mentally and physically.  Murray will be looking for revenge, but that won't be enough to get past the stronger Djokovic.  Murray will put up a fight, but the faster surface at Dubai won't do him any favors.  Djokovic loves playing in Dubai, and should regain the title after his semifinal loss in last year's event.

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