DUBAI (AFP) Novak Djokovic has been gifted a much better chance of successfully defending a title for the first time in his career by the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of Roger Federer. The lung infection which will keep the 16-times Grand Slam winner out of action for a minimum of a fortnight has enabled the world number two from Serbia to become the new favourite - also appeared to increase his appetite for the task. Thats a goal I need to achieve, Djokovic enthused. Defending a title, I have not done it in my career. So lets see if I can do it this week. I am excited because I have been playing well the last three years, winning titles. I just hope to perform at my best and perform as well as last year. Asked what he felt about Federers withdrawal, Djokovic was understandably concerned not to undermine his own achievement if he were to win the title again. I cant really judge, so I cant say whats going on. But even without him (Federer) its a great tournament, he emphasised. Djokovic is aware that he has a dangerous wild card in his quarter - Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the very player who ended his hopes in the Australian Open last month, though Djokovic could claim he was unwell at the time. Proving he has rehabilitated well will therefore be another goal for him, something which may not be helped by the presence in his half of Nikolay Davydenko, the ATP World Tour title winner. The player now most likely to reach the final in the top half instead of Federer is Andy Murray. To achieve this though the world number four from Britain may well have to repeat his Australian Open semi-final success over Marin Cilic, the impressively improving Croat. Murray was similarly oblique about the withdrawal of Federer. Its a disappointment for the tournament obviously, he said. But if hes sick and not feeling well, you know, he had an illness a couple of years ago and kind of played through it, which didnt help him that much. You dont want to let those sort of things drag on. Im sure he made the right decision for himself. Murray even suggested he had no thoughts of winning the tournament, as he had rested up for so long after the Australian Open with discomfort to his back, knee and hip, and prolonged tiredness. His priority was rather to play his way back into the swings of things, he suggested, and build the momentum for a higher level the four weeks in the United States next month. But that may merely have been his way of adopting the professional focus of one step at a time. Another high profile absentee is Rafa Nadal, the former world number one. Federer claimed last week that he thought that Nadal was no longer so concerned about regaining the top ranking, and certainly the Spaniard appears to be taking more care to limit his schedule. Nadal wants to mitigate the effects of chronic knee problems which slowed his momentum just when he seemed to have become the tours main man. Hence he has omitted Dubai from his 2010 schedule, even though the decision may have cost him as much as 500,000 dollars appearance money. Another to benefit from Federers absence should be Julien Benneteau of France, the runner-up in Marseille on Sunday, who gets to play Tommy Robredo, the world number 17 from Spain, rather than the greatest player of all time. Another Frenchman, Gilles Simon, has been unlucky to get perhaps the toughest first round of the lot, and will take on Marcos Baghdatis, the former Australian Open finalist, in the second match on Monday. The evening session will see Djokovic take on Guillermo Garcia Lopez, a Spaniard just inside the top 50. Murray will complete the first days schedule against Igor Kunitsyn, an 18-year-old Russian qualifier who plans to spend six months of the year in California with his Americanised compatriot, Dmitri Tursunov.