Roger Federer left it late to decide whether or not to play in the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, leaving a wide open field for the tournament.
The Swiss star had hinted he was considering a return to Dubai, where he has won the event on seven occasions, after returning to the number one spot in the world rankings in Rotterdam.
But Federer eventually decided he would pass on the opportunity to take a wild card to play at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which will have a new winner this year.
In recent history the competition has been dominated by the sport’s traditional ‘Big Five’ names – Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka – who have won the event every single year since 2002, apart from in 2008 when Andy Roddick won it.
But with none of those five men in the draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this year, there is a chance for someone else to claim the 500 ranking points that are up for grabs to the winner of this week’s tennis tournament.
Grigor Dimitrov will start as the favourite to claim the trophy, with the Bulgarian the only top-10 ranked player who has made it into the draw. As such, Dimitrov has been made the top seed.
Other big names in contention to claim the prize include Roberto Bautista Agut, Lucas Pouille and Richard Gasquet, while a cluster of younger faces will be hoping this is their moment to shine in the spotlight in the absence of Federer and his fellow stars of the sport.
But where can the best value be found in the odds for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships? Let’s take a look and make some recommendations for this week’s betting.
Dimitrov Top of the Tree
Ranked four in the world, Dimitrov is a curious player who it is hard to work out. When he plays to the best of his ability, Dimitrov often looks as though he could beat any other player. Unfortunately, consistency is a problem and he often does not produce on the big stage.
Handed a meeting with Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri in the first round, Dimitrov has a tricky path to the latter stages of the competition as he could face the dangerous Dutchman Robin Haase in his second match in Dubai.
At odds of around the 10/3 mark, it is clear to see why Dimitrov has been made the pre-tournament favourite. He is the only household name in the draw and many will think the trophy is his to lose. But there are 31 other players in the tournament hoping to win it too.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, the sixth seed at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, is projected to meet Dimitrov in the quarter-finals of the event and would likely put up a stern test.
In fact, even though he is the top seed, Dimitrov looks to have a more difficult route to the final in the top half of the draw than if he had been placed in the bottom section, which may have a decisive impact on his chances of claiming the trophy.
In-form Pouille Worth Considering
After reaching the final in his home event in Marseille last week, Lucas Pouille heads to Dubai with some good recent results under his belt and he starts as the second favourite.
Odds of 13/2 on him claiming the title reflect the fact he is not as well known as Dimitrov to those who are not hardcore tennis fans, but he will be a big threat in the draw.
The second seed plays a qualifier up first before a meeting with Karen Khachanov, who he played in the Marseille final.
This will be a very interesting match as it is unusual for two players to face each other in two different matches in such a small period of time.
Pouille, ranked 16 in the world, has won a few hard court titles in his career but, intriguingly, they have all been indoors. The Dubai event is set to take place on outdoor hard courts, but Pouille is certainly a contender for the crown.
Khachanov is another interesting pick from this section of the draw and the Russian is available at odds as large as 20/1, which will be very tempting for a lot of tennis fans for this week.
Hometown Haase in the Mix
Although he will have to beat Dimitrov in his second match to have any chance of claiming the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title, Robin Haase is definitely one of the potential winners of the tournament.
The Dutch player lives in Dubai and has a decent record in this competition, having reached the semi-finals here a year ago.
The level is just getting closer and closer and I think that’s great. I think the time that you knew the quarters are probably going to look like this, or six out of eight are those names, now it’s only two out of eight,” said Haase in the build up to the event.
At a price of around the 40/1 mark, Haase could offer good each-way value as those odds will soon come down rapidly if he gets through a tough clash with Dimitrov early on.
Bautista Agut Seeking Second 2018 Title
Roberto Bautista Agut made a fine start to the year with a title in Auckland, but in the last few weeks he has been struggling for form and consistency.
But the Spaniard, seeded third in the draw for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, should see this event as a good chance to get back on track.
A place in the top 20 of the world rankings is up for grabs for Bautista Agut if he can go deep into the tournament and Florian Mayer is up first in the opening round, offering him a fairly straightforward chance to settle into his rhythm.
While Kohlschreiber awaits and he is also in the same half as Dimitrov, the 10/1 on a victory for Bautista Agut looks to be a very fair price and he is a player well worth considering.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Best Bets
An open field offers lots of opportunities for tennis fans to beat the bookmakers.
Dimitrov heads the field but he is hard to back at a skinny price of 10/3, especially as the Bulgarian often seems to crumble under the pressure of being expected to win.
That means Haase at 40/1 is a terrific each-way pick, with the Dutchman having a good record at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. He is a big threat for Dimitrov in the second round of the event, where victory would propel him among the favourites.
In the bottom half of the draw, 10/1 on a title for Bautista Agut is good value, although the Spaniard has not been playing his best tennis in the last few weeks.
A player who often operates under the radar, Bosnian rising star Damir Dzumhur, is another who could go far in this event and he is available at a price of around the 20/1 mark.
The 13/2 on Pouille, if he can recover in time from his exploits in Marseille over the last week, is a decent shout as the bottom half of the draw looks to be slightly weaker than the top.