Roger Federer will not be participating in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, starting February 26 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), tournament director Salah Tahlak confirmed on Friday, February 23.
Federer's decision to skip the upcoming ATP 500 tournament will thus boost Rafael Nadal's chances of returning to the top spot in ATP rankings.
Notably, the reigning Australian Open champion dethroned his arch-rival when he Robin Haase in the quarter-final of Rotterdam Open earlier this month en route to the top step of the podium.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, with 10,105 ranking points, leads Nadal, who has not played since pulling out of Australian Open quarter-final with a hip injury, by 345 points. The Spaniard will have a chance to close out on the gap when he returns to action at the ATP 500 tournament in Acapulco, starting February 26.
However, Nadal will not be able to surpass Federer as he will be dropping points, following his runner-up finish in Acapulco in 2017. The battle for the top spot is expected to get heated up when the two veterans begin their season's first Master's 1000 campaigns in Indian Wells next month.
Early trip to the US
Meanwhile, Tahak revealed Federer has decided to skip the tournament in Dubai as he wanted to spend time with his family ahead of his title defence in Indian Wells.
Notably, the seven-time champion lost in the second round of the tournament in 2017 but recovered from the defeat and went on to complete his third Sunshine Double.
Federer has set his priority on defending the Indian Wells and Miami titles this year
"I was informed by his [Federer] agent that he wants to first spend time with his four children and wife Mirka. After that he wants to make the trip early to the US and start preparing for the defence of his title at Indian Wells and Miami later," Tahak told Gulf News.
"He also said that this decision from the world No. 1 has nothing to do with Dubai, but it is simply because he doesn't want to take any chances during the build-up to his defence of the two titles in Indian Wells and Miami," he added.
Federer has been carefully planning his schedule ever since he came back from a long injury layoff in 2017. The 36-year-old, who ended his four-year Grand Slam drought at Australian Open last year, skipped the entire clay court leg of the season only to come back and win the Wimbledon.