AS THE New Year dawns, world’s leading lights — Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic — will continue from where they left off in 2016.
The duo lead the star cast for the 25th Qatar ExxonMobil Open, to be held at the Khalifa International Complex from January 2 to 7.
Other big names for the ATP World Tour 250 Series event include 2012 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 2015 runner-up Tomas Berdych and Doha regulars Jeremy Chardy, Ivo Karlovic, Fernando Verdasco, Dustin Brown and David Goffin.
There will be 32 players in the main draw including 25 direct entries, three wild cards and four qualifiers.
Year 2016 saw a thrilling tussle between the deadly duo, with Murray finally usurping Djokovic from the perch and underlining his status as the numero uno by winning the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Djokovic, the defending champion in Qatar, is like a wounded tiger these days. After dominating the ATP circuit for years, the wheels finally came off his juggernaut last season. First, he ceded his Wimbledon crown to Murray and then he was shocked in the first round at the Rio Games. That was followed by defeats to Stan Wawrinka in the US Open final and Murray in World Tour Finals.
After a phenomenal first half of the 2016 season in which he defended his Australian Open crown and clinched a maiden French Open, Djokovic looked tired in the second while Murray’s career graph saw an upward rise with a second Wimbledon crown and an Olympic medal.
The crowning glory came in November when he became the world No.1 for the first time in his career.
If Djokovic is credited with ending the domination of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, then it was left to Murray to snap the Serb’s 122-week reign at the top.
As the Scot returns to Doha for the first time since 2014 when he lost to Germany’s Florian Mayer in the second round, he will be keen to maintain his new-found status as the No.1 player in the world.
The 29-year-old, who trained at Miami during the off-season, is keen to start the new year on a strong note.
“It has taken such a long time for me to get to No.1. I want to try to stay there as long as I can. I’m training hard and getting myself in the shape where I can start 2017 as strongly as possible,” said Murray, who is also playing doubles in Doha.
Djokovic has not won any title since August and recently split with his long-time coach Boris Becker. However, former greats like Pat Rafter and even Becker admitted that it was a matter of time before Djokovic bounces back and he has outlined his plans clearly.
“My professional plans are directed primarily to maintain a good level of play, and also to make some new goals for the next season,” Djokovic said.
A final between the two 29-year-olds would just be the perfect way to start the season!