Dubai Tennis: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas on course for final face-off
Straight sets wins secure passage into quarter-finals on Wednesday
Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the top two seeds at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, remain on course for a final showdown after both players secured straight sets wins on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals.
World No 1 and top seed Djokovic proved far too strong for qualifier Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first evening match on Centre Court, defeating the veteran German 6-3, 6-1 in just 59 minutes.
“I thought I was very sharp from the beginning, mentally,” Djokovic said. “It took me the first few games to get used to the tricky conditions today. It was pretty windy on the court, even though maybe it doesn't seem like that from outside.”
Kohlschreiber, a former world No 16 who is now ranked No 80, managed to hang with Djokovic for the first five games, but once the 17-time grand slam champion broke for a 4-2 lead, it was all one-way traffic. Trying to force his way back into the match, Kohlschreiber started to produce a litany of errors as the gulf in class quickly became apparent.
The pair had faced off 13 times prior to Wednesday night’s encounter, including four times in 2019, and while Kohlschreiber has only managed two wins, one of those came in straight sets at Indian Wells last year.
“Philipp is a tough opponent. You have to take him seriously regardless of his ranking,” Djokovic said. “He's someone that has tremendous experience of playing on a big stage. He's played so many big tournaments in his life. He actually likes this kind of challenge.
“Twelve months ago he beat me in straight sets in Indian Wells, so I knew coming into this match I had to be sharp, stay focused all the way till the end, and not allow him to feel like he has a chance to come back to the match if I'm in front.”
Djokovic will next face seventh seed Karen Khachanov for a place in the semi-finals, and the 32-year-old Serb is prepared for a tough match against a player he has beaten twice in three meetings.
“Karen is a very powerful player. It's going to be a great challenge for both of us,” Djokovic said. “I know what I need to do. I know his game. I'm going to prepare myself well with my team, try to be as sharp as I have in the first two matches.”
Tsitsipas, the world No 6 and second seed, was pushed closer by Alexander Bublik earlier in the day, but came through 7-6, 6-4 in one hour and 35 minutes to inflict a second defeat on the world No 47 Kazakh in the space of four days. The previous victory took place last week at the semi-final stage of the Marseille Open, where Tsitsipas successfully defended the title he won 12 months ago.
It has therefore been nonstop for the Greek, who played the Marseille final on Sunday, travelled on Monday, and played successive matches in Dubai on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Right now, I feel a bit sleepy,” Tsitsipas, 21, said immediately after his win over Bublik. “That's because I sleep late every day. It's difficult for me with the jetlag.
“On the other hand, I'm playing pretty relaxed. I feel my body is flexible, and I feel my mobility is good. I'm not really tight, which is good.”
Tsitsipas, who in November won the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals in London, next faces big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff, who produced the most emphatic win of the day when he thrashed Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-0 in 39 minutes.
Also in Tsitsipas’ side of the draw, Russian sixth seed Andrey Rublev defeated Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 7-6, 6-0 and will face Dan Evans in the quarter-finals after the British No 1 beat France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert in dramatic style, saving three match points in a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 victory.
In the final match on Wednesday evening, third seed Gael Monfils made light work of Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama, claiming a 6-1, 6-2 win to set up an all-French quarter-final tie with Richard Gasquet, who eliminated eighth-seeded compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4.
Updated: February 26, 2020 10:06 PM