Andy Murray will hope to put a bout of shingles and a bit of a challenging doubles match out of the way as he bids to win the Dubai title for the first time. The 2012 finalist has had variable luck at this tournament with three quarter-finals and a final to his name, but it has been a sporadic stop on his schedule at best (2008-2010, 2012, 2015).
He and doubles veteran Nenad Zimonjic were given a bit of an education in their doubles match against the Sydney finalist and champion Dan Evans and Gilles Muller, but it will have served to try and help Murray to get match sharp, having played no competitive matches since his fourth round exit at the Australian Open.
The big-serving and aggressive Malek Jaziri has just snuck into the Top 50 – No. 47 is his best ranking to date, with his only back to back wins this year coming at the Australian Open and a couple of Davis Cup wins.
Murray will need to nullify that serve with his usual returning magic, and dictate the movement, providing he is feeling both the court and in form, having assured reporters ahead of the tournament that he is fully recovered and refreshed.
On paper this should be a more than manageable win and we feel cautiously optimistic.
With now just a couple of places separating Evans from British No. 3 Kyle Edmund, there is a lot of pressure on the Brummie to keep ahead of his big-hitting team-mate. This week should be an interesting race between them as they are both in ATP 500 tournaments this week.
Evans’ talent has never been in question, and now he seems to have gotten this winning bug, we are perhaps seeing him in tournaments like this. Standing between him and a shot at flamboyant Frenchman and fourth seed Gael Monfils is another flashy player Dustin Brown.
The German juggled with a few injuries last year, but after a slow start to the year, Brown reached his first quarter-final of the year in Montpellier. That being said, he did not even last round in Delray Beach, but may just be a little more match-sharp than Evans who has not played since the Davis Cup at the start of February.
This could be a decent test for the Brit. His ranking suggests he will ride rough shod over the German, but Brown can turn on the flair when he wants to. He has a big serve and is not averse to a bit of serve and volley, but Evans can be quick about the court and may have to employ a bit more variety and attacking tennis.
Prediction: Evans in three sets.
Evans and Brown are scheduled at 3:30pm (11:30am GMT) with Murray and Jaziri scheduled not before 7pm (3pm GMT).
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