After the women’s tournament last week – which saw Jelena Ostapenko crowned champion – it’s time for the men to take centre stage at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Monday’s first round may be limited in quantity but it is stacked with quality as world No 1 Novak Djokovic makes his highly-anticipated start to the season as he bids to win a sixth title in Dubai. The Serb’s first round match on Centre Court, against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti, will follow former world No 1 Andy Murray’s encounter against Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell.
The day begins with former US Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia taking on Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, before Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri faces Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic. The other match of the day features Belgium’s David Goffin up against Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.
Djokovic returns in fine style
Novak Djokovic started his season in stunning style on Monday night as the world No 1 produced a masterclass to cruise past Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Djokovic, 34, was playing in his first match of the year following the visa controversy in Australia that resulted in the Serb being deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open due to his unvaccinated status against Covid-19.
If there were any concerns Djokovic might struggle with a lack of match fitness – having not played a tournament since the Davis Cup in November – those were quickly dismissed as the top seed raced into the second round in Dubai with a routine 6-3, 6-3 victory in 75 minutes.
“It’s been a while since I played a match and I couldn’t ask for a better place to start the season,” Djokovic said. “It’s a straight sets win so I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and half months, There were moments I played great, others I made some errors but I’m happy to win tonight. All in all, a very pleasant experience for me.”
Musetti, who pushed Djokovic to five sets at the French Open last season before retiring injured, represented a stern first-round challenge, and the Italian wildcard made his intentions clear by ripping a backhand winner in the first exchange of the match. But Djokovic soon settled into his stride and claimed the only break of the first set to take a 3-1 lead. That proved all the daylight the Serb needed to win the opener.
Djokovic then moved ahead in the second set with a break to love for a 2-1 lead and the 20-time Grand Slam champion looked unstoppable at that stage. However, Musetti pushed Djokovic close in the sixth game when the world No 1 saved four break points to maintain his advantage.
Djokovic earned his second break with Musetti serving to stay in the match and he clinched the victory when the Italian sent a shot long. The five-time Dubai champion, back at the tournament for the first time since winning the title in 2020, will face either Russia’s Karen Khachanov or Australian Alex De Minaur in the next round.