Top seed Kei Nishikori attends the media roundtable at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel's Cu-ba restaurant ahead of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Former finalist Fernando Verdasco had to fight his way into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday, eventually overcoming a gallant challenge from qualifier Thomas Fabbiano 3-6 6-3 6-2.
The 2017 runner-up was joined in the second round by Marton Fucsovics, who defeated Damir Dzumhur 6-1 7-6.
Meanwhile, top seed Kei Nishikori is looking forward to making his Dubai debut on Tuesday against Benoit Paire, saying “I always wanted to come here. Schedule-wise it wasn’t easy, but I chose to come here. Something new. It’s fun.”
And although he is the world No. 6 he knows that there is no guarantee of success as he bids to win his 13th career title and his second of 2019 after winning in Brisbane last month. In some of the best form of his life, he has also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semi-finals in Rotterdam in 2019.
“Especially this year and last year it’s been getting tougher and tougher,” he said. “Everybody can beat anybody now. Even top 50 or top 100 guys can really play. There’s no easy matches. I think everybody gets physically stronger and also they have more passion to become top 10.”
Nishikori has endured several injuries during his career, and last year he was forced to miss the Australian season due to a recurring right wrist injury which had kept him out of the game for almost the entire second half of the 2017 season. But he turned his enforced break to his advantage.
“(When) I got injured I tried to refocus again. I felt like after my wrist injury two years ago, this is my second season of my tennis career. I really think about the way I do training, my body. I started thinking from beginning again. Tennis, too. I changed couple things. I think it was good to have that time off, and I can able to regroup again everything. Some stuff got better. Usually it’s not easy to change something when you are healthy and play whole season. Sometimes it’s nice to have couple months off from tennis.”
And he also used that time do things he normally would not have time for. Even if it still meant getting on a plane.
“I still travelled. I went couple place for fun,” he said. “I was in Japan, of course, to see my friends, family, relax little bit. I went Belgium for rehab. I was there for one month. It was nice. Something different. I never been there. It was fun to do something different with different country.”
“Kei Nishikori has played at the highest level for a number of years and we are thrilled to welcome him to Dubai for the first time,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.
“We can expect many exciting matches as the week unfolds, with several of the players involved having already won titles this season,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “The latest to do so is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won his second ATP Tour title in Marseilles on Sunday, beating Mikhail Kukushkin, another in-form player competing in Dubai this week. Having beaten Roger Federer in Melbourne on his way to the Australian Open semi-finals and now with a title this year he will certainly be a top contender to win here too.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which continues until 2nd March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
For more information, visit the tournament website.