Roger Federer has, with Novak Djokovic, dominated at Dubai since 2003. (Regi Varghese/AP)
The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are in Dubai for their first ATP Tour tournament since the Australian Open, while Andy Murray is in the field at the Mexico Open.
The headline tournament of the week features the return of No. 2 Novak Djokovic and No. 8 Roger Federer, who have ruled this event for a decade. Since 2003, Federer and Djokovic have won nine of 11 titles in Dubai.
"It's always been an important tournament because usually when I've played well in Dubai, I've played well the rest of the year,” Federer said. “Clearly it's not always that way, and I don't want to become crazy superstitious about it. It's a tough draw here, so there's pressure trying to win this and play well here. The conditions are rather quick, so it's hard to control the ball well. So when you can play good tennis here, it feels like you can play good tennis anywhere else."
Djokovic is the top seed, followed by No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 6 Tomas Berdych and Federer at the ATP 500. Federer has been drawn into Djokovic's half, setting up a potential semifinal clash between the two as each seeks his first title of 2014. Del Potro and Berdych, in the bottom half, are chasing their second titles of the season. The status of Del Potro's left wrist remains a question mark, as he looked tentative on his backhand in his quarterfinal loss to Ernests Gulbis at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament two weeks ago.
It's a strong field in Acapulco, Mexico, where the tournament has gone from clay to hard court, making it a perfect lead-up for the tour's big back-to-back events in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami in March. Top seed David Ferrer has made the final here -- again, when it was on clay -- the last four years, winning three times. He's joined by No. 7 Andy Murray (no, that ranking is not a typo), No. 13 John Isner and No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov as the top four seeds. Gulbis, who is in the top 20 for the first time (No. 18) after winning the Open 13 title last week, is also in the draw.
On the women's side, this International-level tournament features two of the stars of the Australian Open, No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 19 Eugenie Bouchard. American junior Tornado Black, 15, makes her WTA debut as well, drawing No. 42 Bojana Jovanovski in the first round.
The ATP's "Golden Swing" on South American clay culminates in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where No. 12 Tommy Haas and No. 18 Nicolas Almagro are the top two seeds. Almagro is going for his fourth title here, having won in 2008, 2011 and 2012.