FILE PHOTO: Roger Federer will take to the court for the first time since his Australian Open fourth-round defeat to Stefano Tsitsipas. Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters

DUBAI – Roger Federer heads into his ‘home’ Dubai Championships on Monday convinced that it’s only a matter of time until he wins his record-setting 100th career title.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who has long used the emirate as a winter training base, will take to the court for the first time since his Australian Open fourth-round defeat to Stefano Tsitsipas.

The Greek youngster is also in the field, with the pair in opposite halves of the draw.

The 37-year-old Swiss, seeded second behind tournament debutant Kei Nishikori, explained on Sunday that he is perfectly content to let things take their natural course and is not stressing over finally cracking his trophy century.

“That’s got to be the mindset, that you try your best every match, every week anyway. 

“Things fall into place or they don’t. It’s not because of lack of effort,” says Federer who reached the 99 mark in October.

The tennis icon added: “We’ve been talking about 99 titles ever since Basel, every tournament I’ve played. 

“There’s nothing new. Of course, coming to Dubai where I’ve enjoyed a lot of success sort of makes you believe maybe it could happen here. 

“Then again, the draw is tough. I haven’t played in a few weeks, so you reset everything, get ready for your first round, hope everything is going to click again here in Dubai.”

Federer will begin his quest for a record eighth Dubai title as he takes a 14-0 record into his first-round contest on Monday night against long-time friend and rival Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The German went down to Federer in the Rotterdam second round a year ago, with the Swiss winning the tournament and taking back the ATP number one ranking at the record age of 36.

“I just practised with Kohlschreiber a couple days ago, we played two sets basically. 

“We really both know what we’re getting into. He looks good, so it’s going to be tough.”

The Swiss will feel the love from crowds at the Aviation Club as he returns for the first time since 2017 when he lost in the second round to Evgeny Donskoy.

“It gives me confidence that I know I can play well here in Dubai on this court in these conditions.

“But conditions are playing much, much slower than the previous years.

“You can really grind a player down now. It’s been actually quite a big change. I’m excited to be here. 

“I do believe this surface also lends itself very well for me to play well here. Hope I can show it tomorrow.”

Top seed Nishikori will start against France’s Benoit Paire. Croatian Marin Cilic takes the third seeding ahead of Russian Karen Khachanov.

AFP