In his first Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships appearance since 2016, Novak Djokovic extended his unbeaten start to the 2020 ATP Tour season with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Malek Jaziri.
The World No. 1 landed 22 winners and did not face a break point to improve to 14-0 this year after exactly one hour. Djokovic quickly found the level he showcased throughout the opening month of the season, where he won each of the 13 matches he contested during title runs at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open.
“It’s a great way to start out the tournament,” said Djokovic. “As I’ve said in the press conference prior to the tournament, I miss playing here. I really enjoy it. I enjoy night sessions… 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 is chasing his fifth title in Dubai this week. The 32-year-old owns a 37-6 tournament record, highlighted by tournament victories in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. In Djokovic’s only previous ATP Head2Head clash against Jaziri in 2016, he also defeated the Tunisian 6-1, 6-2 at this event.
Djokovic will face 2014 semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber for a spot in the quarter-finals. Kohlschreiber recovered from a set down to move past Egyptian wild card Mohamed Safwat 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Djokovic leads the German 11-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, which includes three victories from four encounters in 2019. At last year’s BNP Paribas Open, Kolschreiber stunned Djokovic in straight sets to reach the Round of 16.
“I lost to him in straight sets in Indian Wells last year. I am aware of what he’s capable of,” said Djokovic. “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… I will prepare myself. I’m feeling good on the court. Tonight was another testament to the way I feel. [I have] confidence. [I am] obviously striking the ball well. Hopefully that can continue in the next match.”
Karen Khachanov was tested in the early stages of his opening match, before charging to a 7-6(2), 6-1 victory against Mikhail Kukushkin. After recovering from a break down on two occasions in the first set, the 23-year-old dropped just one point behind his first serve in the second set (10/11) to complete the win after 90 minutes. Khachanov improves to 8-5 this season with his second victory in four appearances at the ATP 500 event.
“There were some difficult moments during the match,” said Khachanov. “I was a break down two times. That’s really great to keep that first set. I think it was [an] important one.”
The World No. 17 levels his ATP Head2Head series against Kukushkin at 1-1. The Kazakh beat Khachanov in the pair’s only previous tour-level ATP Head2Head clash at the 2014 VTB Kremlin Cup.
“It was not [an] easy opening match. Always first round is pretty tough… I’m really happy I could get the win,” said Khachanov. “I have another match, another opportunity to play better, like always, to improve.”
Khachanov advances to a second-round encounter against wild card Prajnesh Gunneswaran or Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak. The Russian is competing in the top quarter of the draw, which is headlined by World No. 1 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic.