Dubai Tennis Championships draw: Roger Federer and Mikhail Youzhny in repeat of 2007 final

Champion and No 2 seed Roger Federer faces a tricky opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after he was drawn against two-time finalist Mikhail Youzhny.

Richard Gasquet, second left, Mikhail Youzhny, third left, and Tomas Berdych, centre, attend the official draw of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Photo courtesy: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
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“Thank you, thank you guys,” said Mikhail Youzhny as he stood and bowed in mock appreciation after Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez’s name was pulled out to fill one of the two vacant spots in the main draw of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.

That meant the popular Russian veteran, making his 14th consecutive appearance in this tournament, would have the privilege of facing six-time Dubai champion and one of the greatest to play the game, Roger Federer, in the first round.

Last month, Youzhny, 32, drew Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the Australian Open – he is certainly not destiny’s favourite child these days.

“You cannot do anything about the draw,” Youzhny said with a shrug of his shoulders. “It can be a good draw for you or it can be a bad draw for you.

“It’s a bad draw for me now maybe, but you never know. I have always played well here. I have always had a little bit of chance when I play against him here. So we will just have to wait and see. I cannot say anything now.”

A former world No 8 who has slipped to No 52, the Moscow native has played Federer 15 times since their first clash in Stockholm in 2000 and is yet to win a match. Those 15 duels have involved 38 sets and Federer has won 34 of them.

Four of Youzhny’s losses to Federer have been at the Aviation Club – twice in quarter-finals (2005 and 2012), once in a semi-final (2006) and then in the 2007 final.

He reached another final, in 2010, and lost to Novak Djokovic, the world No 1 and four-time champion here.

“I think it’s just my bad luck,” said Youzhny when reminded about those two defeats before the draw ceremony began.

“I know how that feels like, Youzhny,” said Tomas Berdych as he interrupted the Russian.

The Majalis erupted in a roar of laughter.

Berdych understands Youzhny’s frustrations better than most.

The Czech, who is making his ninth appearance in Dubai, reached the final in 2013 and 2014, but lost to Djokovic two years ago and then had a meltdown against Federer last year after winning the first set ­comfortably.

“I think that is one of the things that I like, especially, about this place – that is coming here and competing with all those giants,” said the world No 8, who has made two finals (Doha and Rotterdam) and the semis of the Australian Open in his three tournaments this year.

Berdych will open his campaign against Frenchman James Chardy and he is hoping “to go far and get the title ­finally”.

He knows it will not be easy, though.

Potentially, it could be tougher than the past two years.

In the 2013 semis, he knocked out a struggling Federer and last year he squared off against German Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the final.

This time, he has been drawn to meet Djokovic in the last four, while Andy Murray and Federer could meet in the other semi-final, although Murray has a potential banana-skin first round against Gilles Muller and then a tough quarter-final against Belgian David Goffin.

The Australian Open winner Djokovic, on the other hand, opens his campaign against Canadian Vasek Pospisil and then could meet either a qualifier or Andrey Golubev in the second round and possibly No 6 seed Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-final.

FULL DRAW FOR THE ATP DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Novak Djokovic (1) v Vasek Pospisil

Andrey Golubev v Qualifier

Qualifier v Alexander Zverev (WC)

Qualifier v Feliciano Lopez (6)

Tomas Berdych v Jeremy Chardy

Simone Bolelli v Qualifier

Sergiy Stakhovsky v Lukas Rosol

Denis Istomin v Ernests Gulbis (5)

David Goffin v Marcos Baghdatis (WC)

Phillip Kohlschreiber v Malek Jaziri

James McGee (WC) v Joao Sousa

Gilles Muller v Andy Murray (3)

Roberto Bautista Agut (7) v Dominic Thiem

Andreas Seppi v Richard Gasquet

Fernando Verdasco v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

Mikhail Youzhny v Roger Federer (2)

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