January 18, 2017 -- DUBAI, UAE: There could be a changing of the guard at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this year, with world number three and ATP Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov leading the list of direct entries for the ATP title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium next month.
With defending champion Andy Murray out injured, the field may have opened up for a new title holder to hold the trophy aloft when play commences for the Men's week on 26 February.
Dimitrov, who will be making his second appearance in Dubai having played here in 2011, has emerged as a genuine contender for the world number one position after a blazing run in 2017. The 26 year old Bulgarian rocketed up the rankings last year, jumping 14 places to finish the year as world number three. His stellar season saw him make it to five tour finals, collecting four titles, including his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and ending the year with a huge victory in the ATP Tour Finals in November.
However Dimitrov will face a tough challenge from a contingent of powerful young guns including Lucas Pouille, Damir Dzumhur, and Karen Khachanov, as well as giant killers Evgeny Donskoy and Damir Dzumhur.
At the start of 2016 Pouille was only just in the top 100 but is now knocking on the door of the top ten. At 23 the rising star has already collected four tour titles and was named the ATP Most Promising Player for 2016. Dubai fans will remember his great win in the quarter finals in Dubai last year when he defeated Evgeny Donskoy, who had sensationally felled Roger Federer in the second round. Pouille's run to the title ended in the semi-finals, going down to eventual champion Andy Murray.
Damir Dzumhur, who also inflicted a shock loss on defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round last year will also be challenging for the title. Dzumhur showed that incredible win wasn't a fluke by winning two titles last year and jumping 58 places in the rankings to 30.
At just 21, Karen Khachanov has already collected his first tour title, and has performed well on the game's biggest stages, reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros and the third round at Wimbledon. He also made the third round at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Cincinnati and qualified for the ATP Next Gen Finals.
Other challengers for the title include regular competitors in Dubai, Roberto Bautista Agut, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Viktor Troicki, Denis Istomin and Richard Gasquet. Bautista Agut has had a winning start to the year, taking out the ASB Classic in Auckland last week with a win over Juan Martin del Potro, his seventh career title. Tour veteran Gasquet continues to add to his impressive trophy cabinet, having appeared in 28 tour finals, winning 14 titles to date.
"There are so many players who could become the 26th holder of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy, with no player guaranteed of success in what is yet another world-class field," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "It will be exciting to see how the talented young players fare against the more experienced ones who have thrilled us with spectacular matches over the years, and who still pose a very real threat for the title."
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, "We can look forward to a very entertaining tournament which is guaranteed to provide some unforgettable action both on and off the court this year. We are watching our players progress in Australia at the moment and wish them all the best."
Staged at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, the action will commence on 19 February with the WTA Premier 700 event, followed on 26 February with the ATP 500 tournament, offering equal prizemoney for the men and women from a combined prize pool of US$5.6 million.
Grandstand ticket prices for the WTA event start at AED55 for opening rounds to AED735 for the ATP finals, with daily Prime A and Prime B tickets and season tickets also available. (All inclusive of VAT).
Tickets go on sale online on Thursday 18 January, and from the Box Office from Thursday 25 January. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.