Roger Federer heads into the Dubai Championships on Monday convinced that it's only a matter of time until he wins his record-setting 100th career title.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who has long used the emirate as a winter training base, will take to the court for the first time since his Australian Open fourth-round defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek youngster is also in the Dubai field, buoyed by his Marseille title win on Sunday.
The 37-year-old Swiss, seeded second behind tournament debutant Kei Nishikori, explained on Sunday that he is perfectly content to let things take their natural course and is not stressing over finally cracking his trophy century.
“That's got to be the mindset, that you try your best every match, every week anyway,” said Federer, who reached 99 titles last October. Things fall into place or they don't. It's not because of lack of effort.”
The tennis icon added: “We've been talking about 99 titles ever since Basel, every tournament I've played.
“There's nothing new. Of course, coming to Dubai where I've enjoyed a lot of success sort of makes you believe maybe it could happen here. Then again, the draw is tough. I haven't played in a few weeks so you reset everything, get ready for your first round, hope everything is going to click again here in Dubai.”
Federer will be starting his quest for a record eighth Dubai title as he takes a 13-0 head-to-head record into his first-round contest on Monday against longtime friend Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German went down to Federer in the Rotterdam second round a year ago, with the Swiss winning the tournament and taking back the ATP number one ranking at the record age of 36.
“I just practised with Kohlschreiber a couple (of) days ago, we played two sets basically,” said Federer. “We really both know what we're getting into. He looks good, so it's going to be tough.”
The crowd at the Aviation Club will be delighted to see Federer return for the first time since 2017, when he lost in the second round to Evgeny Donskoy. “It gives me confidence that I know I can play well here in Dubai on this court in these conditions,” he added.
“But conditions are playing much, much slower than the previous years. “You can really grind a player down now. It's been actually quite a big change. I'm excited to be here. I do believe this surface also lends itself very well for me to play well here. Hope I can show it tomorrow.”
Top seed Nishikori will open his campaign against Frenchman Benoit Paire, but is not in action on Monday.