Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
ATP Players Dan Evans and Alexei Popyrin; Salah Tahlak, Joint COO of Dubai Duty Free, and Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships; Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free; Nasser Yousef, General Secretary of the UAE Tennis Federation; Ramesh Cidambi, Joint COO of Dubai Duty Free and Head of Tournament Organising Committee; Sinead El Sibai, Vice President Marketing - Dubai Duty Free; ATP Supervisor Roland Herfel
Dubai, UAE – February 25, 2023: The ATP 500 event at the 31st Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is shaping up to be an exhilarating week of top-class tennis after the official draw produced a tantalising spread of intriguing first round matches, and teased some an eye-catching potential ties between top seeds, big-name veterans, and rising stars.
The ATP 500 field is headed by world No. 1 and recent Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic and features four of the world’s Top-10, including multiple Grand Slam winners with a collective 26 big four titles between, as well as the next generation of tennis icons.
Saturday’s official draw saw 16 matches confirmed for the opening Round of 32 (R32). With players contesting a maximum of four matches before the final on March 4, a host of mouth-watering pipeline clashes came to light as the ties unfolded.
At opposing ends of the draw, Djokovic will start his quest for a sixth Dubai title against a qualifier or lucky loser, while defending champion and second seed Andrey Rublev will face Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, the world No. 67 in R32.
“I feel good to be back in Dubai, it’s a great feeling, and I would love to go as far as possible,” said Rublev. “Last time I played Filip he destroyed me quite easily, I couldn’t do anything, so we will see. It will be a nice game and I hope I play better than last time.”
MORE: Highlights: Rublev defeats Vesely to win the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Championships
Fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland will face 2017 Dubai champion Andy Murray in the opening round, with Djokovic a potential quarterfinal opponent. With all five qualifiers sitting on Djokovic’s half of the draw, third seed Daniil Medvedev, who could meet Djokovic in the semifinals, will also face a qualifier in R32.
“Over the years, this tournament has created terrific excitement in Dubai, and grown to become one of the world’s best-regarded tournaments,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We have a very strong line-up this year and the draw has produced some fascinating matches that will excite our loyal fans. Every year, we strive to make the event more compelling, and give tennis fans from both the UAE and overseas the maximum amount of fun. We look forward to an exciting week of tennis and wish all the players the best of luck.”
MORE: View the draws
Elsewhere in the opening round clashes, Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the world No.16 and seventh seed in Dubai, will play world No.52 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, while Canadian fourth seed and world No.9 Felix Auger-Aliassime—who could face Zverev in the quarterfinals—opens against French-born American Maxime Cressy, the world No.37. In the same half of the draw, sixth seed Karen Khachanov, who could face Rublev in the quarterfinals, starts his Dubai run against Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands.
British No.1 Daniel Evans, who will play Croatian eighth seed and world No.20 Borna Coric in the first round, believes the late February heat in Dubai will challenge the field. “We get very hot conditions on tour, but we start a little later here. It’s always difficult when it’s hot and a lot of players may not be prepared to go when it’s this sort of temperature,” said the world No.29. who lives in Dubai.
Speaking during the draw, Salah Tahlak, Joint COO of Dubai Duty Free, and Tournament Director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, said: “The draw has opened the door to some thrilling confrontations between elite players and we cannot wait for the competitions to begin.”
Finally, Tahak also named the final three players to receive wildcards into the main draw. The first was Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis, who memorably partnered Nick Kyrgios to doubles glory at the 2022 Australian Open. Kokkinakis will face a qualifier in R32. Veteran Malek Jaziri was the second wildcard, with Tahlak confirming the Tunisian—who will play Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in R32—is set to retire after the Dubai tournament.
MORE: Malek Jaziri Reflects On Semi-final Run In Dubai
The final wildcard went to Alexei Popyrin, a 23-year-old Australian national and Dubai resident who starts his maiden Dubai appearance against a qualifier in R32, before Murray or Hurkacz lie in wait in the Round of 16. Popyrin, a product of the CF Tennis Academy, confessed he knows the Championships well from his days as a former ball kid.
MORE: Feature: Alexei Popyrin recalls Dubai ballkid memories
“Being a ball kid here so many years ago is one of my fondest memories,” said Popyrin. “Back then as a ball kid on Centre Court, it was always my dream to play in Dubai. To get that opportunity is great privilege and honour, and I want to thank everyone who participated in handing me the wildcard. I always told myself that if I ever made it I would thank all the ball kids, but to be honest I don’t really do that – so thank you to all of them in advance,” laughed the world No.84.
The Official Draw event was also attended by Ramesh Cidambi, Joint COO of Dubai Duty Free and Head of Tournament Organising Committee, as well as ATP Supervisor Roland Herfel, Nasser Yousef, General Secretary of the UAE Tennis Federation, and ATP Referee Hany El Khafief.