Roger Federer will not defend his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title next week after announcing he has undergone knee surgery that will rule him out until the grass court season.
Federer won his eighth Dubai title – and 100th of his career – last year when he defeated Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. However, four days before the start of the 2020 tournament, the 38-year-old Swiss revealed he will be sidelined for his title defence.
"My right knee has been bothering me for quite a while. I hoped it would go away, but after an examination and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday," 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer wrote on his social media channels on Thursday.
"After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery. As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Bogota, and the French Open.
"I am grateful for everyone's support. I can't wait to be back playing again soon, see you on the grass!"
Federer’s absence means he will not be able to defend his Miami Open title either and will also lose substantial rankings points at Indian Wells having reached the final last year. Meanwhile, by ruling himself out of the French Open, Federer would have missed four of the past five years at the clay court Grand Slam tournament.
As one of the biggest stars in tennis, Federer's withdrawal is a blow to the Dubai line-up, although the field still contains many top names, led by world No 1 Novak Djokovic.
Tsitsipas, the world No 6, returns aiming to go one better than last year and will be joined in Dubai by world No 9 Gael Monfils, Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini, talented Russian youngsters Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, and 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic, 32, will undoubtedly be the man to beat, though, particularly in the context of the season so far. The Serbian superstar is yet to taste defeat after 13 matches this year having led Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup, before defending his Australian Open title – winning the tournament for a record-extending eighth time.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion also boasts an impressive record in Dubai. He won the tournament in three successive years from 2009 to 2011, before winning his fourth and most recent title in 2013. Djokovic last competed in Dubai in 2016 when he reached the quarter-finals and retired with an eye injury after losing the first set to Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.
Based on ranking and head-to-head records, Tsitsipas looks best placed to challenge Djokovic in Dubai. The ATP Finals champion has beaten Djokovic in two of their four meetings, both times on outdoor hardcourts.
However, the 21-year-old Greek is yet to hit top form this season having lost four of his nine matches so far, although he is through to the quarter-finals of the Marseille Open, where he is the defending champion.