Daniil Medvedev faces tricky opener at Dubai Tennis Championships

Defending champion makes first appearance since losing Australian Open final

Daniil Medvedev after losing the Australian Open final against Jannik Sinner in Melbourne last month. EPA
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Daniil Medvedev’s title defence at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will begin with a tricky opener against 23-year-old Alexander Shevchenko, the draw revealed on Saturday.

Making his first appearance since losing the Australian Open final from two-sets-to-love up against Jannik Sinner, Medvedev is familiar with the danger posed by Shevchenko, who extended the Russian to three sets in their sole previous meeting in the Madrid Masters third round last year.

Shevchenko arrives in Dubai at a career-high ranking of 45 and was present at the draw ceremony when his name was announced as Medvedev’s first-round opponent.

“Basically, I thought it’s better to redo the draw,” joked Shevchenko, who changed his citizenship at the start of the 2024 season from Russia to Kazakhstan.

“Obviously it’s different playing here (compared to Madrid); he won last year, he’s the defending champion and just a great player. To beat him you have to play your best and hopefully he plays a little bit below his average. Let’s see, let’s hope.”

Medvedev could take on No 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the quarter-finals, with the likes of third-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, fifth-seeded Ugo Humbert, French wildcard Gael Monfils, and former champion Andy Murray, all possible semi-final opponents for the world No 4.

Andrey Rublev, 2022 Dubai champion and last year’s runner-up, is seeded No 2 and will take on China’s Zhang Zhizhen in the first round.

Rublev shares the same quarter of the draw with No 6 seed Adrian Mannarino and could square off with No 4 seed Karen Khachanov or No 7 seed Alexander Bublik in the semi-finals.

Joining Monfils as wildcards in the main draw are Jordanian Abdullah Shelbayh and India’s Sumit Nagal.

Nagal will open against Lorenzo Sonego and could face Medvedev in the second round while Shelbayh will make his Dubai debut against Dutch world No 28 Tallon Griekspoor.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray has an intriguing opening clash with former world No 10 Denis Shapovalov, who is making his way back up the rankings after spending six months on the sidelines nursing a knee injury.

In qualifying action on Saturday, Tunisia’s Aziz Dougaz led 3-1 and held three set points at 5-4 in the opening frame before succumbing 7-6(3), 6-1 to 63rd-ranked Frenchman Luca van Assche.

Main draw matches kick off on Monday at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, with the final taking place on March 2.

Updated: February 24, 2024, 4:03 PM