Dominic Thiem admits he is some way short of playing his best tennis right now, but he is hoping to put that right in Dubai this week.
Thiem is the top seed in a seriously depleted field for the tournament. Roger Federer withdrew, Rafael Nadal rejected a wild card, and Novak Djokovic is injured.
There is no Daniil Medvedev either, who is the new world number two, and Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are playing Acapulco.
That leaves Andrey Rublev the main opposition for Thiem, who does at least believe he is improving.
"I’m on the right track definitely, but I’m not at the top of my game right now," Dominic Thiem said.
"Australia [and the 14-day quarantine] was tough to digest in all aspects, so I’m still trying to find my top game and I’m working hard every day.
"Strong tournaments like this are always good opportunities to get matches, to play against strong opponents, and I hope I can take another step in the right direction.”
Thiem was poor at the Australian Open, suffering the meekest of exits in the fourth round against Grigor Dimitrov.
Since then he has also disappointed at the Qatar Open, where he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals.
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