Novak Djokovic did not play competitive tennis for a month prior to this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Yet the World No. 1 appeared near his best in just his second match back on Wednesday, when he dismantled Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP 500.
Djokovic had shown frustration during his three-set battle with Czech qualifier Tomas Machac in the first round on Tuesday, but the 35-year-old struck the ball cleanly from the start on Wednesday against Griekspoor. Djokovic broke the No. 39-ranked Dutchman four times to race to an 82-minute victory against one of the in-form players on the ATP Tour.
“It’s been a great evening for me tonight,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “Yesterday I really had to work hard to get a win. Tonight, right from the blocks, I think I was sharp. I played definitely better-quality tennis than I did last night.
“Maybe the last three or four games weren’t the best to close the match, but I managed to find a good serve in the end. I’m very pleased with the performance and with the way I felt on the court, and hopefully things can go in the right direction for tomorrow.”
The five-time Dubai champion crashed 29 winners in a scintillating display of baseline hitting. Griekspoor, who entered the match with a 12-3 record for the season, could do little to counter in the face of Djokovic’s charge, as the Serbian comfortably maintained his record of never having lost before the quarter-finals in 13 appearances in Dubai.
“[My level was] much closer to the best level tonight than it was yesterday,” said Djokovic. “I probably didn’t expect to play that well tonight, considering last night’s match. But here we go, every day is a new day, a new opportunity, and I’m really glad that I played this well tonight.”
With the win, Djokovic improved his ATP Head2Head series lead against Griekspoor to 2-0, after he also defeated the Dutchman in straight sets at the 2021 US Open. The World No. 1 was pleased with the way he handled the challenge of an opponent he had minimal experience against.
“He’s got a lot of firepower in his game,” said Djokovic. “His serve and forehand, those are two of his favourite shots. He tries to dictate the points from the back of the court with the forehand, and I knew that I had to take the time away from him.”
Djokovic on Monday began his 378th week as No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to overtake WTA legend Stefanie Graf’s record for the most weeks spent at the top of the sport. He will take on fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz or qualifier Pavel Kotov in the last eight.
In the final match of the day on Dubai’s centre court, Daniil Medvedev delivered a rock-solid performance to defeat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-2 for his 11th straight tour-level victory.
The 27-year-old Medvedev is bidding for his third ATP Tour title in as many weeks after his triumphs in Rotterdam and Doha, and he did not face a break point in his 65-minute victory against Bublik in Dubai. After the match, Medvedev acknowledged that his winning streak is helping him deal with the physical exertions of his busy schedule.
“I think confidence is more important than [fatigue], because you don’t want to stop,” said Medvedev. “Unless of course you feel bad physically. Doha was a little bit tough after coming from Europe. It’s a longer flight, so I feel much better physically here in Dubai. [In Doha] I still managed to run good and play good, so I feel 100 per cent ready and am looking forward to my next matches.”
Medvedev remains unbeaten in five tour-level meetings with Bublik. It is just one of a number of dominant ATP Head2Head records the 27-year-old holds against some of the top players on Tour.
Daniil Medvedev, Unbeaten ATP Head2Head Records (Minimum Four Matches Played)
|Botic van de Zandschulp
The 17-time tour-level titlist Medvedev does not have such a convincing record against his next opponent in Dubai, however. Borna Coric, who beat Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday to set a quarter-final clash against the third seed, leads Medvedev 4-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.