DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — After taking a three-week vacation from tennis after winning his sixth Australian Open title, Novak Djokovic is ready to get back on court Monday at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Having won his first two tournaments of the year — the Qatar Open and his 11th Grand Slam title in Australia — the top-ranked Serb has been focusing on his family.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis from the beginning of preparation through the finals of the Australian Open, more or less every day,” Djokovic said Sunday. “I think it was necessary for me to just cool off a little bit and do something else.
“Thankfully, I’m a father and husband, and that’s already a lot of work and a lot of pleasure,” he said. “And the few weeks (off) felt like it was even more and I’m eager to come back.”
Djokovic is a four-time champion in Dubai, but lost the last two years to Roger Federer in the final and semifinals.
Federer recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and won’t be defending his Dubai title this week.
Djokovic will play Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo in the first round.
On the other side of the draw, second-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland is returning to Dubai after an eight-year absence.
Wawrinka has only played here twice before — in 2006 and 2008 — and lost in the first round on both occasions.
“It’s been many years since I played here and I wanted to change things in my calendar, to feel like I’m going to new tournaments,” Wawrinka said.
Wawrinka beat Djokovic on the way to both of his Grand Slams - in the 2015 French Open final and the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals — but knows the challenge ahead.
“He’s dominating the tennis, for sure, and he’s playing a different level from the rest of the players,” Wawrinka said. “But we’ve had some tough battles in Grand Slams when I was playing my best tennis. My game, the power I have from the backhand, the baseline, and the forehand, makes me feel like I have a game I can trust to beat him.”
Wawrinka plays Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in the first round on Tuesday.