7 February 2017 – DUBAI, UAE: With just 25 days to go until the men’s finals of the 25th anniversary of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, defending champion Stan Wawrinka is hoping to repeat his victory in Dubai and hold the trophy aloft again.
After enjoying yet another successful season on the ATP World Tour in 2016, and beginning 2017 by reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open before falling to the resurgent Roger Federer in a nail-biting five setter.
But things do not always run smoothly for the Swiss number one and spectators might experience more of the roller coaster excitement he produced on his last appearance. Last year he arrived in Dubai knowing that in his previous two visits he had failed to even win a set. The first time was understandable as he had the misfortune to draw Roger Federer, but the second time he fell to a qualifier ranked 188 in the world. And last year he found himself within two points of defeat against Sergiy Stakhovsky in his opening match. Even in winning the final he kept the sell-out crowd on the edge of their seats as he fought off five second set points against Marcos Baghdatis in a nail-biting tiebreak.
Although he holds three of the four Grand Slams, after winning the Australian Open in 2014, the French Open in 2015 and the US Open in 2016, Wawrinka still feels that he is far from the finished article.
"There's many things I can improve," he said as last season drew to a close. "If I look in general, the (2016) season was amazing for me. I won a Grand Slam, plus finished in the top five. I won in my home in Geneva, which was really important for me. But I’m not consistent enough during the year. I can play amazing, I can win a Grand Slam, but I’m not playing well enough all the year.”
Despite his self-confessed inconsistency Wawrinka has claimed wins over every member of the world's top 10, and is a strong favourite for the title wherever he plays.
"Stan Wawrinka has enjoyed his greatest success relatively late in his career, with his first Grand Slam title coming when he was 28 years old and his first title here shortly before his 31st birthday," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "He will face strong competition in his bid to retain his title against several other members of the world's top 10, but there is no doubt he will be one of the favourites and we wish him well."
Among those competing for the title will be world number one Andy Murray, seven-time winner Roger Federer, two-time finalist Tomas Berdych and flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Following his success in Dubai, Wawrinka went on to enjoy the satisfaction of winning his second title of the year on home ground in Geneva, and shortly after that he reached the semi-finals of the French Open before losing to Andy Murray. The disappointment of a poor grass court season was quickly replaced by the delight of a semi-final in Toronto, and then the thrill of claiming his third Grand Slam crown with victory over Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open. Shortly after that he reached the final in St Petersburg, and he got his 2017 season underway by reaching the Brisbane semi-finals.
"Stan Wawrinka produced some of the most dramatic moments of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year, and after winning the title here he continued to add more silverware to his trophy cabinet as the year progressed," said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. "There is no doubt that he will once more offer a strong challenge against top-class opposition."
Action gets underway first with the WTA event that features seven of the world's top 10, including world number one Angelique Kerber, reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, 2017 Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova, 2017 Sydney champion Johanna Konta and former Dubai winners Agnieszka Radwanska, Sara Errani and Caroline Wozniacki.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which takes place between 19 February and 4 March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for every day of the event including the finals are still available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Tickets are also available online through www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.