Novak Djokovic in action during his round of 32 match against Tomas Machac at the Dubai Open. Reuters
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
The world No. 1 Novak Djokovic survived qualifier Tomas Machac scare to reach the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.
The Serbian took two hours and 28 minutes to battle past the Czech 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 at the packed Centre Court.
Djokovic, who was playing for the first time since winning his record-extending 10th Australian Open title, easily won the first set but was surprised by the world No.130 in the second.
Machac broke twice in the second set to force the decider. The Serb raced to a 4-1 lead in the final set, but Machac took advantage of his rival’s errors to draw level 4-4.
The top seed, who has broken Steffi Graf’s record for most weeks as world No. 1 in history, saved seven out of ten break points in the tense third set to secure a spot in the second round and keep his hopes alive for a sixth Dubai title.
“Tomas certainly didn’t play like the No.130 in the world today,” Djokovic said during an on-court interview.
“He was giving me all kinds of trouble. But I guess when it mattered, I found another gear,” he added.
medvedev triumphs: Chasing a third title in as many weeks, third seed Daniil Medvedev brushed aside Italian lucky loser Matteo Arnaldi 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second round.
The world No. 7 arrived in Dubai on the back of two consecutive titles on hard courts, including the Rotterdam Open and Doha Open.
Stretching his winning streak to 10 matches, the Russian required one hour and 31 minutes to dispatch Arnaldi. Making his return to the tournament after four years, Medvedev fended off early break points in the first set before winning it 6-4. Later, he broke his rival twice in the second set to cruise into the next round.
“It is never easy playing someone you have never seen before,” Medvedev said.
“I actually didn’t know how he plays, if he plays aggressive or defensive. It was kind of in the middle. It was not easy in the beginning, but I played better in the second set. He is young, he had good results in Challengers. When it is like this, you have a lot of potential to be very high, but you never know if it is going to happen, so I can only wish him luck.” Medvedev will next meet Alexander Bublik, who advanced after qualifier Alexandar Lazarov pulled out when trailing 1-6, 0-1.
“I’m just really happy to be on a streak right now. Streaks always end. I will try to extend mine as long as I can. [I am] feeling great. Hopefully can do some good things here in Dubai,” added the Russian during a post-match press conference.
Debutant Felix Auger-Aliassime fended off Maxime Cressy’s challenge to reach the second round of the tournament.
The Canadian fourth seed needed more than three hours to defeat the American 7-6(4), 3-6, and 6-3.
The world No.9 won the hard-fought first set only to lose the second one, but he bounced back in the decider.
“It was fun to be in Dubai playing for the first time in this tournament. It was a long match, so I had a chance to stay on court for quite a while. That was difficult. “But I’m glad to get it done,” the Doha semi-finalist said.
“He (Cressy) doesn’t have the most common game. But that is why he is difficult to play. You don’t have to face an opponent like him. He is quite unique, and that is why I think he got me last time,” added Auger-Aliassime, who suffered defeat at the hands of Cressy at Wimbledon last year.
He will next face Italian Lorenzo Sonego.
Earlier, sixth seed and Dubai resident Karen Khachanov crashed out after losing 7-6, 6-2, to world No. 33 Botic van de Zandschulp.
Van de Zandschulp will next face Mikael Ymer, who cruised past Francesco Passaro, 6-2, 6-3.
Elsewhere, Christopher O’Connell beat Finn Emil Ruusuvuori 7-5, 6-4, and eighth seed Borna Coric advanced after Daniel Evans retired due to injury at 2-2 in the first set.
The Emirati and Syrian pairing of Abdulrahman Al Janahi and Kareem Al Allaf exited the doubles competition after losing to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Tomislav Brkic and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar.
Brkic and Escobar beat Janahi and Allaf 6-1, 6-3 in just 50 minutes.