Late February heralds the heads-down-serious preparation for the biggest Masters month in the ATP tennis calendar: Indian Wells and Miami fill March with their 96-player draws.
For on opposite sides of the world, and a full 10-hour time difference apart, two of the most popular ATP500s get under way on appropriately warm, hard courts and with appropriately top-flight draws.
Dubai was always the jewel in the crown in this week of the calendar, but since Acapulco switched from clay to hard courts in 2014, its location—a moderate flight from the home of Indian Wells—and conditions have drawn the big names in their droves. Twice in its last four editions it has been voted the favourite 500 on the tour, in a category dominated by Dubai for over a decade.
What makes Dubai front and centre this year, however, is the participation of five-time champion and world No1 Novak Djokovic, who is playing for the first time in 2022 after being forced to abandon his Australian Open campaign due to Covid-associated visa regulations.
And one of the repercussions will be played out in Dubai—and Acapulco. For while Djokovic was unable to defend his 2021 Australian winner’s points this year, world No2 Daniil Medvedev could, and did, defend his runner-up points.
Djokovic is also due to lose his winner’s points from Dubai in 2020 come the end of February—a delayed drop courtesy of Covid postponements and cancellations after the tournament that year.
Meanwhile, Medvedev tops the seeds in Mexico, and if he wins the title there, he will take over the No1 position irrespective of whether Djokovic wins Dubai or not. Indeed, the Russian needs only to keep one step ahead of Djokovic in wins through their respective weeks, and he will grab the top spot.