Watch List: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer in Dubai; Rafael Nadal in Mexico

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With longer breaks between tournament, Roger Federer's court appearances now have added value. (AP)

With longer breaks between tournament, Roger Federer's court appearances now have added value. (AP)

The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are in Dubai, Rafael Nadal is back in action in Mexico and Venus Williams plays her first tournament since the Australian Open.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

With Roger Federer's commitment to a reduced playing schedule, every tournament he plays reaches a new level of significance. Federer will be taking a two-month break after Indian Wells, which means Dubai will be his second-to-last tournament until he returns to clay in Madrid in May. It's a risky gambit for Federer, who says he still thinks he can overtake Novak Djokovic at No. 1 even with a limited schedule, one that sees him defending titles in Dubai, Indian Wells and Madrid. He hasn't won a title since Cincinnati last year.

"Absolutely realistic if you play great," Federer said in Dubai, where he's the No. 2 seed behind Djokovic. “I know it’s possible. I know it’s possible to win tournaments. But right now, a big focus is on making sure every tournament I enter that I’m perfectly prepared like for here, for Australia, for Indian Wells.”

Six of the top 10 men are in Dubai, with Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rounding out the top five seeds. Federer and Djokovic have won this title eight of the last 10 years, and it would be a shocker if anyone outside the top five seeds walked away with the title here. Of the top five, Federer, who's going for his sixth Dubai title, has shown the spottiest form since Australia, looking sluggish in his quarterfinal loss to Julien Benneteau in Rotterdam two weeks ago. Del Potro went on to win that tournament easily, while Tsonga and Berdych contested the Marseille final on Sunday, which Tsonga won.

Del Potro has been drawn in Djokovic's half. Federer's half includes both Berdych and Tsonga. One intriguing potential matchup: a rematch of the Australian Open third-round clash between Bernard Tomic and Federer. They could play each other in the third round here. Of course, Tomic has to get there first. And so does Federer.

Notable early-round matches to watch

First Round: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Marcos Baghdatis; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Michael Llodra; Janko Tipsarevic vs. Nikolay Davydenko.

Potential Second Round: Bernard Tomic vs. Janko Tipsarevic.

Potential Third Round: Tomic/Tipsarevic vs. Roger Federer; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Tomas Berdych.

Click here for the complete draw.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel

After a week off to rest his weary knees and take stock in his game, Rafael Nadal returns for the final leg of his three-tournament clay-court swing. Nadal is going for his 38th clay title and he'll likely face his strongest opposition yet in the form of David Ferrer, who has supplanted him in the rankings and is now the No. 1 Spaniard.

Ferrer is the three-time defending champion in Acapulco and is coming off a title in Buenos Aires. Ferrer has spent a career being thwarted by Nadal at almost every clay event at which they've competed, beating him only once, in 2004 in Stuttgart. Since then Nadal has reeled off 13 straight wins over Ferrer on clay, which means should these two meet in the final we'll get our best opportunity to gauge exactly where Nadal's game is at this stage of his comeback.

Nadal said he'll wait until after Acapulco to decide whether he'll play the U.S. hard courts in Indian Wells and Miami. If he's unable to capture the title here and show improved form physically and technically throughout the week -- Nadal was far from his best in winning Sao Paulo -- I'd wager to guess he'll pull the ripcord and head back to Europe for the clay swing.

As for the women, Sara Errani is back to defend her title after a strong performance in Dubai, where she lost a three-set final to Petra Kvitova. Credit to Errani for starting off her 2013 season by proving her breakout 2012 wasn't a fluke. Aside from a first-round loss at the Australian Open, she's made two finals and two quarterfinals already. She should win here as long as she's not wiped from her two weeks in the Middle East, though the woman who beat her at the Australian Open, Carla Suarez Navarro, is the No. 2 seed.

Notable early-round matches to watch

First Round: Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Fabio Fognini.

Potential Second Round: Wawrinka/Fognini vs. David Nalbandian.

Potential Third Round: Rafael Nadal vs. Thomaz Bellucci.

Click here for the complete men's draw | Women's draw.

Delray Beach International Tennis Championships

Just as the Dubai features the same names from the European indoor swing and Acapulco features all the clay-court grinders and hitters from The Golden Swing, Delray Beach is San Jose and Memphis reincarnated in balmy South Florida. Milos Raonic is the only notable name absent here, as John Isner, Tommy Haas, Sam Querrey and Memphis champion Kei Nishikori lead the field. Kevin Anderson is the defending champion. The South African has had a strong start to the 2013 season, making the final of Sydney and the fourth round of the Australian Open, before undergoing surgery to remove bone fragments from his elbow. This is his first tournament back.

Notable early-round matches to watch

First Round: John Isner vs. Jesse Levine; Kei Nishikori vs. Ivo Karlovic; Jack Sock vs. Matt Ebden; Sam Querrey vs. Michael Russell.

Potential Second Round: Jack Sock vs. Feliciano Lopez; James Blake vs. Sam Querrey;

Potential Third Round: John Isner vs. Kevin Anderson; Kei Nishikori vs. Feliciano Lopez.

Click here for the complete draw.

WTA Brasil Tennis Cup

The WTA returns to Brazil for the first time in more than a decade. Venus Williams is making the trip to kick off this inaugural tournament in Florianopolis. The International-level hard-court tournament will offer a good test for Venus -- the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 20 -- in her first tournament since losing to Maria Sharapova in the third round of the Australian Open in January. Yaroslava Shvedova, Kirsten Flipkens and Chanelle Scheepers round out the top four seeds.

Click here for the complete draw.

BMW Malaysian Open

It's odd to see Caroline Wozniacki's name in the Kuala Lumpur draw, but the former No. 1 has opted to rack up the frequent flier miles (and the appearance fee, no doubt) to fly from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur and then back to the States for Indian Wells. Wozniacki will be looking to sustain her momentum after reaching the quarterfinals of Doha and semifinals of Dubai. She's the only top 10 player in the draw, with defending champion Hsieh Su-Wei, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ayumi Morita her primary challengers.

Click here