Novak Djokovic has said the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship "will miss" Roger Federer this year after the Swiss world No 2 withdrew from the tournament to have knee surgery.
Federer, 33, is a record seven-time champion in Dubai and defeated world No 1 Djokovic in last year’s final, one of only five finals the 28-year-old Serbian failed to win last season.
Djokovic and Federer have made a duopoly of the Dubai title in recent times, winning the last seven between them, and 11 of the last 13.
Read more: The National's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships landing page
Federer’s absence this year has made Djokovic an overwhelming favourite to win his fifth title, and while the 11-time grand slam champion conceded the tournament is not the same without his rival, he said it would not affect his approach to the week.
“I hope he recovers fast, because we are not used to seeing him injured,” Djokovic said after his 6-1, 6-2 first round win over Tommy Robredo on Monday evening. “He’s very fit and he plays very well throughout the entire year.
“He’s very important for our sport. He’s the most successful player of this tournament, so for sure the tournament will miss him.
“But that doesn’t change much in the way I approach this tournament. I will try to go as far as I can, even with him not playing here.”
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