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Dubai tennis: Djokovic enters quarterfinals with straight sets win over Khachanov

It was the 43rd match-win in Dubai for Djokovic who has won this event five times

Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves to Russian Karen Khachanov during their ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match on Wednesday. (AFP)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves to Russian Karen Khachanov during their ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match on Wednesday. (AFP)

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 8:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 9:10 PM

World number one Novak Djokovic overcame a spirited second set fightback from Karen Khachanov to win the second round clash 6-3 7-6 (7/2) and enter the quarterfinal of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

In his first event since the deportation from Australia over his coronavirus, the Serbian won his second straight match in straight sets in Dubai, having beaten Italian qualifier Lorenzo Musetti in the first round 6-3 6-3.

But Khachanov, the 25-year-old Russian who had beaten Djokovic in the 2018 Paris Masters, fought back in the second after waving the white flag in the first.

Despite losing his serve again, Khachanov broke back in the eighth game after missing three break points in the third game.

Khachanov grew in confidence as he forced a tie-break, but Djokovic brought all his experience and used his drop shots beautifully to outsmart the big Russian to clinch the match in straight sets.

It was the 43rd win in Dubai for Djokovic who has won this event five times.

Earlier, rising Italian star Jannik Sinner was too strong for Andy Murray as the fourth seed dismantled the British veteran in straight sets 7-5 6-2.

Murray, 34, struggled to cope with the 20-year-old Sinner’s relentless aggression from the baseline on the Centre Court as his Dubai campaign ended with a tame defeat.

The three-time Grand Slam winner did put up a fight in the first set and showed great fighting spirit in the fifth game, saving two break points.

But Sinner earned the decisive break of serve in the 11th game, breaking Murray at love before clinching the set in 57 minutes.

Both players came into the second round contest after engrossing three-set battles in the previous round.

But it was Sinner’s young legs that made the difference against the ageing Murray who has been struggling to find his best form since returning from a second hip surgery.

The Italian tormented the 2017 Dubai champion with delicate drop shots and completely dominated the second set as Murray ran out of gas.

“I lost the last match against him (Stockholm, 2021), so I tried to stay focused on my game. I think I played well, especially in the first set in difficult moments. So I am very happy,” said Sinner.

Sinner was not even born when Murray won the Orange Bowl, the most prestigious tournament for junior players at international level, at Florida in 1999.

And the Italian who won a junior skiing national championship before leaving winter sports for tennis, said it was a great honour to share the court with Murray.

“It’s a special feeling, he is a legend, winning three Grand Slams, and many, many tournaments. But unfortunately, he has had tough moments with surgeries. His fighting spirit is still incredible. I wish him best of luck,” the Italian said.

Meanwhile, fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland beat Alex Molcan of Slovakia 6-3 6-2 in the other early second round clash on Wednesday.



Singles second round

(1) Novak Djokovic (SRB) beat Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-3 7-6 (7/2)

(4) Jannik Sinner (ITA) beat (WC) Andy Murray (GBR) 7-5 6-2

(5) Hubert Hurkacz (POL) beat (LL) Alex Molcan (SVK) 6-3 6-2

(2) Andrey Rublev (RUS) beat Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 4-6 6-0 6-3

Mackenzie McDonald (USA) beat Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-4 7-6 (9/7)

[Q] Ricardas Berankis (LTU) beat (LL) Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-4 7-6 (9/7)

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