Novak Djokovic insists Roger Federer’s absence from the Dubai Championships does not automatically make him favourite to win the event. On the eve of the tournament, Federer announced he faces four months on the sidelines after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Federer was due to play in Dubai, where he has won a record eight times.
And the Swiss would have been the second seed, projected to meet Djokovic in the final.
Without Federer, the world No 1 leads the field with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Roberto Bautista Agut.
And Djokovic made the perfect start to his campaign on Monday, beating Malek Jaziri 6-1 6-2 in just one hour.
After the match, Djokovic was asked whether Federer’s absence meant his path to the title was eased and he replied: “Not in particular.
“Of course, Roger is such an important person and player and brand for our sport. Of course, you don’t want to see him missing one tournament, two tournaments.
“Now he’s going to be out until the grass season as I hear. That’s a blow for our sport and for this tournament in particular where he’s defending champion; he has won many times.
“But it doesn’t change much in terms of my approach. If he would have been here in the draw, we would possibly meet only in the final.
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“You got to win four matches. You got to build your game. You got to win against all these guys that are playing on a high level.
“There’s some top players always from top 10, top 15; four, five players are playing each year.
“It makes this tournament a great challenge for me or for anybody else.”
Djokovic will play Philipp Kohlschreiber on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals and maintained the German is a dangerous opponent.
He said: “We’ve played [each other] many times. We go back many years [and] we know each other’s games pretty well.
“I saw him play today and he’s a very talented player.
“He’s got an all-round game, I lost to him at Indian Wells last year in straight sets so he can deliver his best game in these kind of matches on centre courts of big tournaments against the biggest players in the world.
“I know what he is capable of and I will try to give my best.”
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