Djokovic wins a thriller in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Djokovic needed two hours and 27 minutes and a perfectly played tie-breaker to beat world No130 Tomas Machac 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1)

By Joy Chakravarty

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Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his match against Tomas Machac on Tuesday. — M Sajjad/Khaleej Times
Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his match against Tomas Machac on Tuesday. — M Sajjad/Khaleej Times

Published: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:12 PM

Novak Djokovic was tested to the hilt in his comeback match, but the world No1 kept his unbeaten streak alive this year with a three-set win over a man ranked 129 places lower than him in the opening round match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

Djokovic, who starts his 378th week as world No1 – the most in the history of ranking, overtaking Steffi Graf, needed two hours and 27 minutes and a perfectly played tie-breaker to beat world No130 Tomas Machac 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1).

“Tomas definitely didn’t play like 130 in the world today. He played great tennis and he deserves a big round of applause,” said Djokovic after the match.

“I was just getting in all kinds of trouble. But I guess, when it mattered, I found another gear and played an almost perfect tie-break.

“Physically, you can always be better. I did struggle with injury for several weeks. And it took me a little bit of time to really get used to holding the racquet.

"I haven’t played much tennis coming into Dubai. So, I’m hoping that as the tournament progresses, I can raise the level of tennis as well.”

With the world No2 and defending champion Andrey Rublev already advancing on Monday, the only seed to be eliminated in the round of 32 was the sixth seed Karen Khachanov with a 7-5, 6-2 loss to Netherlands’ Botic van de Zandschulp.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia moved to second round as he searched for a third straight titles in three with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Matteo Arnaldi, while fourth seed Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime, had to overcome a three-hour challenge against American Maxime Cressy.

Eighth seed Borna Coric had the shortest stay on the court – just 22 minutes – as England’s Daniel Evans retired with the score on 2-2 in the first set.

In the first game of the evening session on Centre Court, Djokovic broke early in the fourth game and wrapped up the first set in just 37 minutes despite several moments of brilliance from his Czech opponent.

Machac troubled the 93-time ATP champion with his passing shots, and also with his service from the left side of the court in their first-ever career match-up.

Djokovic hit 44 winners to Machac’s 34, but the Czech never allowed the Serbian superstars to dictate play for extended periods.

He also won 18 of 25 points he played at the net.


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