Roger Federer takes on Benoit Paire in the opening round of the ongoing Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. The seven-time champion is returning to court for the first time after his 18th Grand Slam-winning run at the Australian Open last month.
While world number one Andy Murray is the top seed, Federer, who also won the title in 2014 and 2015 before missing the action last year, is starting as third seed behind compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the tournament, which also has Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych among other top names.
After returning from a six-month injury layoff, Federer beat the odds to clinch impressive wins over top-ranked Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori enroute to the final in Melbourne, in which he survived a marathon thriller against familiar foe, Rafael Nadal.
It will be interesting to see how the Swiss fares after not having played in nearly a month. However, Federer holds a 3-0 advantage over Paire with his last win over the Frenchman coming on clay at the 2013 Rome Masters semi-final.
Paire heads into the tournament after first round exits in his last two tournaments - Marseille and Rotterdam. However, he has been travelling around the globe early in the season, reaching the semi-final of Chennai Open and Montpellier, in which he lost to Richard Gasquet.
The world number 39 has an uphill task against the in-form, hungry Swiss champion, who will be focussing more on ATP 500 tournaments this season after having decided on reducing his clay court apperances.
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