Ever since his surprising win at the Australian Open, Roger Federer has kept a relatively low profile. Apart from a mountain trip with Bear Grylls, the Swiss legend has spent most of February recovering from his efforts down under. Now refreshed and eager to continue his steady progression back up the rankings, Federer is back at a tournament that he has utterly dominated. His first opponent was the always tricky Frenchman, Benoit Paire.

Federer’s forehand was on fire

From the first point of the match, it seemed as though Federer was eager to make it off the court as soon as possible. Crisp movement up to ball combined with great serving rhythm, the Swiss left Paire unable to find an answer. The forehand is the one shot of Federer’s that has to be working for him to inflict major damage on his opponents. Paire, who may have been suffering from a foot injury was unable to cope with the barrage of forehands sent to him by Federer.

Unlike at the Australian Open, Federer was not shanking the ball and seemed assured with his footing. Federer's backhand was also very solid, and something that I noticed was his willingness to hit over the ball on the return. Normally a defensive returner, Federer has made that aspect of his game more of a weapon. Although the Swiss has not played much tennis coming into this tournament, with his 6-1, 6-3 victory, he has sent a message to the field that he is not letting up after winning an 18th major title.

Andy Murray begins his campaign tomorrow

Another player that everyone will have their eyes on is Andy Murray. Having not played since his shocking defeat in the Australian Open round of sixteen, the Scot is looking to rectify his year. Admitting that overtraining led him to have shingles, Murray’s overall fitness may not be at its peak coming into this event. He first round match is against Malek Jaziri, who could offer the Scot some resistance.

Jaziri has a great forehand and is very consistent from the baseline. I will be eager to see how Murray comes out in this match and if his illness has at impacted his movement around the court. Murray is still trying to cement his status as the best player in the world and a dominating win in dubai could go a long way in allowing that to happen.

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