Dubai tennis: Djokovic not losing sleep over threat to No 1 ranking from Russian Medvedev

Medvedev could be the new world number one later this week even if Djokovic wins Dubai title



Novak Djokovic hits a return against Karen Khachanov at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday. (DDF Tennis)
Novak Djokovic hits a return against Karen Khachanov at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday. (DDF Tennis)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 11:42 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 12:01 AM

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was not in Novak Djokovic’s mind when the world number one stepped on the court for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships second round clash with the reigning US Open champion’s compatriot Karen Khachanov.

While Khachanov hasn’t really hit the highs after showing great early promise, Medvedev is threatening to break the stranglehold of the Big Three after denying Djokovic the chance to win his 21st major in the US Open final last year.

The Russian then came tantalizingly close to ending Rafael Nadal’s bid for his 21st Slam in last month’s Australian Open final, but the Spaniard had the last laugh in an epic comeback from two sets down.

Nevertheless, Medvedev has a golden chance to become the world number one at the end of this week with a triumphant campaign in the on-going Mexican Open, regardless of Djokovic’s result on the Centre Court in Dubai.

If he does snatch away the number one ranking from the Serb, Medvedev will become the first man outside of the Big Four (Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) since 2004 to occupy the coveted position in men’s tennis.

But Djokovic, who overcame a spirited second set fightback from Khachanov to win the second round clash 6-3 7-6 (7/2) and enter the Dubai quarterfinals, said he was not losing sleep over the possibility of surrendering the number one spot.

“Medvedev, I said it before, he deserves probably more than anybody else to become the No. 1 in the world. Whether it's going to happen this week, next week or in few weeks, it's inevitable. It's going to happen. I'll be the first one to congratulate him. I said that before,” Djokovic said at the post-match press conference in Dubai on Wednesday.

“He's a great quality player, no question about it. He's been working his way up the rankings wonderfully. He deserves to be where he is in the position to get the No. 1.

“But right now I'm really not thinking about it. As I said, it's very soon going to happen, the No. 1 transition.”

On Wednesday, Djokovic brought all his experience and used his drop shots beautifully to outsmart Khachanov to clinch the second round match in straight sets after the big Russian had forced a tie-break, despite waving the white flag in the first set.

Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, who stunned eighth seed and former Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-2 6-4, now awaits Djokovic in Thursday’s quarterfinal.

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.

Meanwhile, second seed Andrey Rublev of Russia came back from a set down to beat South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon 4-6 6-0 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal date with unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald, who overcame Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 6-4 7-6 (9/7).

In the last match of the night, sixth seed and big-hitting Canadian Denis Shapovalov was too strong for Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel, winning 6-4 6-3 to set up a last-eight clash with Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis.

Order of play

Thursday

Singles quarterfinals

3pm

Mackenzie McDonald (USA) vs (2) Andrey Rublev (RUS)

4:20pm

(4) Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs (5) Hubert Hurkacz (POL)

7pm

(1) Novak Djokovic vs (Q) Jiri Vesely (CZE)

9pm

(6) Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs (Q) Ricardas Berankis (LIT)

Results

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)

(Q) Jiri Vesely (CZE) beat (8) Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-2 6-4

(6) Denis Shapovalov (CAN) beat (Q) Taro Daniel (JPN) 6-4 6-3


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