Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Djokovic loses world No.1 ranking to Medvedev

The Serbian's shock defeat to Czech world No.123 Jiri Vesely will see Medvedev become the first man since 2004 outside the “Big Four” — Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — to occupy the No.1 ranking on Monday



Yet to sink in: Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely celebrates after defeating Serbian Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday night. — AP
Yet to sink in: Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely celebrates after defeating Serbian Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday night. — AP

By AFP

Published: Fri 25 Feb 2022, 12:36 AM

Novak Djokovic lost his Dubai quarterfinal and his world No.1 ranking in one go on Thursday as he suffered a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) upset at the hands of Czech world No.123 Jiri Vesely.

Competing in his first tournament of the season, and first since getting deported from Australia, Djokovic needed to at least reach the semifinals in the Emirates to try and stop Daniil Medvedev from replacing him at the top of the rankings.

But Vesely had other ideas as the left-handed qualifier improved his career record against Djokovic to 2-0 — a result that will see Medvedev become the first man since 2004 outside the “Big Four” — Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — to occupy the No.1 ranking on Monday.

Djokovic, who has spent a record 361 weeks as the world No.1, said at the start of the tournament that he “would be the first to congratulate” Medvedev, if the Russian succeeded in his quest for the summit.

US Open champion Medvedev, currently involved in the Acapulco tournament, becomes the third Russian man after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin to ascend to the world No.1 spot.

Vesely, a former junior No.1, has won five matches in Dubai so far this week, making it through qualifying to reach his first tour-level semi-final since Pune in 2020.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I never thought I would really have a chance against Novak, he’s one of the greatest of all time, if not the best,” he said.

“After the last 12 months, I’ve been going through... it’s unbelievable, I have so many emotions inside, it’s hard to describe, it’s just an amazing feeling,” added Vesely, who next takes on Denis Shapovalov or Ricardas Berankis.

The 28-year-old came out victorious in his only previous meeting with Djokovic, defeating the Serb on the clay courts of Monte Carlo back in 2016.

Vesely started the match by breaking Djokovic on his way to a 2-0 lead.

He lost his advantage as the top seed struck back but some clever drop shots and some tricky lefty serves saw the towering Czech inch ahead once again and he served out the opening set on the 47-minute mark.

A down-the-line backhand drive earned Vesely a break in the seventh game of the second set but he wobbled, while serving for the victory as Djokovic pegged him back to level for 5-5. Vesely raced to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak and soon completed a huge surprise win over the five-time Dubai champion.

Rublev pleads for peace

Rublev sent out a message for peace and unity after he advanced to his third semifinal in as many weeks with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Mackenzie McDonald.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rublev posted a photo on Instagram of two characters featuring the colours of the two nations’ respective flags hugging each other.

He later told reporters in Dubai how tough it was to step on court in light of everything that was happening. In these moments you realise that my match is not important. It’s not about my match, how it affects me. What’s happening is much more terrible,” the Olympic gold medallist said.

“You realise how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what, to be united. It’s about that we should take care of our Earth and of each other. This is the most important thing.”

Rublev is one of many Russian athletes to receive verbal attacks online. “Of course I get some bad comments on Internet because I am Russian, so I get some aggressive comments like not in a good way. I cannot react on them because if I react on them, I’m going to show (I am) the same (as them),” he explained.

“If I want to have peace, I need to be like it doesn’t matter. Even if they throw rocks to me, I need to show I’m for the peace, I’m not here to be aggressive or something.”


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