Djokovic books semis berth as Zverev sets up Rublev showdown


Alexander Zverev hits a return shot against Lorenzo Sonego (unseen) during their Dubai Open match on Thursday.

World number one Novak Djokovic took his perfect record in 2023 to 15-0 on Thursday when he swept past Hubert Hurkacz to reach the Dubai Championships semi-finals.

Djokovic, a five-time champion at the tournament, triumphed 6-3, 7-5 for a fifth win in five matches against 11th-ranked Hurkacz.

In all, Djokovic is on a 20-match win streak having also claimed the season-ending ATP Finals last year.

Djokovic is moving closer to his devastating best, mentioned ATP.

“It was a challenging match as it always is against Hubert. One of the best guys on the Tour, definitely,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “Fantastic personality. Very lovable guy, a great relationship with everyone. He’s always respectful. I wish him all the best for the rest of the season.”

Hurkacz threw everything in his deep arsenal at Djokovic on centre court. From winning a point after hitting a tweener in the early moments of the match to putting pressure on the Serbian by moving forward, the Pole tried to take the 35-year-old out of his comfort zone.

It was to no avail. Djokovic dominated on serve — he did not face a break point — and chipped away to earn opportunities until he broke through. The top seed converted two of his eight opportunities to advance after one hour and 21 minutes and take a 5-0 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.

Hurkacz was closest to breaking through at 5-4 in the second set, when he took a 0/30 advantage. But after Djokovic served his way out of trouble, he seized the match in the next game.

The Pole fended off the first four break points he faced in the game, but Djokovic unleashed a trademark backhand down the line to claim his fifth chance, before successfully serving for his place in the semi-finals as mentioned by ATP.

“I think he’s got one of the best serves in the game, so in the second set until that 11th game in the second set, I didn’t really have too many chances against his serve,” Djokovic said. “He was winning his service games comfortably. Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on my serve throughout the second set and held my serve.

“Love-30 at 5-4 for him, found a couple of good serves, good plays. Really one or two points can always decide [the winner] of matches like this. There’s not much that is separating both players. But I’m really, really glad with the way I played under pressure.”

Djokovic, who before arriving in Dubai had not competed since lifting his 10th Australian Open trophy, is now 15-0 on the season, marking his fourth-best winning streak to start a season.

In the first round, he needed a final-set tie-break to claw past Tomas Machac. Now Djokovic is two wins from capturing his sixth title in Dubai and his 94th tour-level crown overall. That would tie him with Ivan Lendl for the third-most titles in the Open Era.

Zverev beats Sonego: After a long road back, Alexander Zverev is showing plenty of promising signs this week.

The German defeated Lorenzo Sonego 7-5, 6-4 at the hard-court ATP 500 to reach his first semi-final since he suffered a serious ankle injury at Roland Garros in 2022. Zverev clinched a decisive single break in both sets for his sixth tour-level win of the year.

“It’s been a very difficult time for me over, I would say, the last nine months,” said Zverev in his on-court interview. “I haven’t played tennis at all for such a long period for the first time in my life. It definitely shows that the hard work is paying off and I’m extremely happy with my progress and how I’m playing right now.

“I’m happy to be in my first semi-final since the injury. Hopefully it won’t be my last and hopefully there’s much more to come here.”

Zverev’s opponent in his maiden Dubai semi-final will be Andrey Rublev, after the defending champion overcame some late resistance from Botic van de Zandschulp to reach the final four for the third consecutive year.

Rublev held his nerve in the second-set tie-break to complete a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory against the Dutch World No. 33. He had been broken by Van de Zandschulp for the first time in the match when serving for it at 5-4 in the second set, but kept his composure to win the final five points of the one-hour, 53-minute encounter and level the pair’s ATP Head2Head series at 1-1.



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