Novak Djokovic Begins Bid For Fifth Title At Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Top seed Novak Djokovic began his bid for a fifth Dubai crown by defeating Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri 6-1 6-2 to reach the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. Third seed Gael Monfils, sixth seed Andrey Rublev and seventh seed Karen Khachanov also enjoyed opening round victories.
Monfils overcame Marton Fucsovics 6-4 7-5, Rublev beat qualifier Lorenzo Musetti 6-4 6-4 and Dubai resident Khachanov defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (2) 6-1. Richard Gasquet overcame qualifier Lloyd Harris 7-6 (5) 6-4.
Djokovic was satisfied with how he played in his first match since winning the Australian Open.
“Yeah, it’s a great way to start out the tournament,” he said. “I miss playing here. I really enjoy it. I enjoy night sessions. There’s a lot of people for an opening day of the tournament. It’s a working day so I want to thank everyone coming out. It was a great atmosphere. One-hour match, I think I’ve done everything as well as I imagined it to be for the first match. Of course, there’s things that always can be improved, things that can be better. But I have to be satisfied with the performance.”
Djokovic will now face 36 year-old Tour veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, who overcame Egyptian wild card Mohamed Safwat, winning 4-6 6-4 6-0. It is not a match he will take lightly.
“I lost to him in straight sets in Indian Wells last year,” Djokovic recalled. “I am aware of what he’s capable of. He likes actually playing top players on a big stage. He has lots of experience. He’s very fit. He keeps on playing even at that age on a high level. I certainly will not underestimate him. As I said before, our last meeting I lost to him in straight sets on the hard courts. I will prepare myself. I’m feeling good on the court. Tonight was another testament to the way I feel. Confidence, obviously striking the ball well. Hopefully that can continue in the next match.”
Jaziri predictably found it difficult to make any impression on the 17-times Grand Slam champion, but still found the experience useful.
“The top guys, is tough to play against them,” he said. “With my game I think he’s really solid. He don’t give a lot of chances. He don’t give a lot of free points, let’s say. He fight for all the points. You have to make all the points. If not, is tough. Plus I’m not in my best top level right now. I think I give the best today what I can do on court. I think is good test for me today to see where is my level, where I have to work, what I have to do. Is good. I think I come out from the match from a lot of positive things.
“And really thank you to the Dubai Duty Free and (Tournament Director) Salah Tahlak because they give me the wild card this year. I think for Mohamed (Safwat) as well it’s a great opportunity to play here in Dubai. Thanks as well to all the Tunisian and the people who come to support me today against Novak.”
“We were able to enjoy a master class from Novak Djokovic as he bids to win his first title here since 2013,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “His next opponent presents an interesting challenge for him, but there are also others in the draw who have recently been enjoying great success. Gael Monfils, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have all won titles already this year, and any one of them could deny Djokovic a fifth Dubai title.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Tennis fans have a fantastic opportunity to watch the world number one for free on Tuesday when Novak Djokovic competes in the doubles with former Grand Slam singles winner Marin Cilic on court one against 2019 Dubai and 2020 Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. Doubles legend Leander Paes is competing in his last season before retiring, and he will be partnering Matthew Ebden on court two.”