The four-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic is through to the second round following a comfortable victory over Malek Jaziri in an hour. The Serb was the dominant figure in the desert between 2009-2013, ending Roger Federer's supremacy and becoming the second most successful player at this prestigious ATP 500 event.
Federer bounced back stronger in the years to come, lifting eight trophies at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, including 2019 when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to claim the 100th ATP crown. Last week, Roger announced he underwent knee surgery, withdrawing from Dubai and skipping all the events until Halle in June.
Roger would have been the second seed in Dubai and the crowd wanted to see another title clash between him and Djokovic, something the Serb is aware of. Still, Novak said they both would have to win four matches to reach that title and that's not an easy thing to do in such a strong field, speaking highly about Roger but staying focused on his next clash and path towards the title.
"The fact that Roger Federer had to skip Dubai changed nothing for me. He is such an important player and brand for our sport; you don't want to see him missing one or two events. Now, he is skipping everything until the grass season and that's a blow for both tennis and Dubai where he was the defending champion and the winner of so many titles.
Still, that doesn't change much in my approach. If Roger would have been here in the draw, we could meet only in the final and you have to win four matches before that and build your game against all those guys who are playing on a high level.
There are always four or five players from the top-10 or top-15 here in Dubai and it makes a big challenge for me or anybody else."