x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai Tennis Championships: Novak Djokovic and brother Marko fall at first hurdle in men's doubles

Novak, the world No1, and his brother Marko were squeezed out of the doubles event 6-4, 3-6, 10-4 in the extended tiebreak, by Nikolay Davydenko and Dick Norman.

Marko Djokovic, front, and his older brother Novak won their first set as a doubles pair yesterday against Nicolay Davydenko and Dick Norman but lost their match 6-4, 3-6, 10-4. Antonie Robertson / The National
Marko Djokovic, front, and his older brother Novak won their first set as a doubles pair yesterday against Nicolay Davydenko and Dick Norman but lost their match 6-4, 3-6, 10-4. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // On the evidence of a doubles match lasting little more than an hour, it would appear immense mental strength is not genetic in the Djokovic family.

Novak, the world No1, and his brother Marko were squeezed out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships' doubles event 6-4, 3-6, 10-4 in the extended tiebreak, by Nikolay Davydenko and Dick Norman as the younger of the two siblings crumbled at the end of the match.

The elder, more experienced Djokovic had spoken on Sunday about the psychological resilience required to reach the top of the tennis ladder, but on a leafy side-court at the Aviation Club, it seemed the longer the match drew on, the more the younger Serbian struggled with the pressure.

It was the fifth time the two brothers had partnered on tour, but the first since the 2011 Dubai event when they also lost in the first round. This time at least they made progress in that they took the first set of the match, which was also their first set as a doubles duo.

The Djokovics entered Court 1 to warm applause from the capacity crowd that filled the three surrounding bleachers and the spectators - several wrapped in flags and others wearing face paint - had plenty to cheer early on as the pair raced to a 3-0 lead.

The Australian Open champion looked sharp, save for a speck of complacency as he double faulted twice in the fifth game to allow his opponents back in. Norman did similar while facing a breakpoint at 5-4 and the Djokovics secured a maiden set.

By midway through the second set, the crowd had spilt over into the adjacent court and calls and hoots were growing more frequent between points.

First, the younger Djokovic was broken to give his opponent's a 2-3 lead and then, with Novak having double faulted again to gift them a breakpoint, Marko proved unable to return a Norman lob.

With a first-to-10 tie-break deciding who advanced, the Djokovics took an early 4-2 lead, but Davydenko and Norman started targeting Marko, 21, who made a spat of unforced errors. At 4-5, he found the net from close distance; at 4-6 and with Norman's high return sitting up perfect, he drilled it long; and at 4-7, he shanked his return wildly into the air.

As Davydenko and Norman closed out the match and celebrated their place in the second round, the world No 1 dismissively clipped a loose ball into the adjoining court and consoled his brother with an arm around the waist, which was reciprocated.

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