Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the quarterfinal of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on March 2, 2023. World No. 1 Djokovic, looking for his sixth title in Dubai, advanced to the semifinals. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: A champion always finds ways to win. Novak Djokovic has won 93 titles, including 22 majors. So he knows a thing or two about winning. That’s what the top seed showed in subduing the big-serving Pole Hubert Hukacz 6-3, 7-5 to enter the semifinals of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Thursday.

Hurkacz has never beaten Djokovic in their previous four meetings, which include Wimbledon and the French Open. The Serbian said knowing how to play him does not always guarantee a victory.

“I know him well [and] his game. He’s been around for quite a few years. He plays his best tennis on quick surfaces. He has got one of the best, most lethal serves on the Tour. When he’s in the rhythm, like he was for most of the second set today, it’s very difficult to return his serve or get in the rally. He was going really quickly through his service games,” the World No. 1 told reporters.

Djokovic rode out the Pole’s serves and raised his game to win the quarterfinal. “Overall [I’m] very pleased with the under-pressure moments and how I’m feeling each single day. I’m feeling better and better, striking the ball and also physically on the court,” he added.

Djokovic, chasing his sixth Dubai title, was never in a spot of bother against Hurkacz, the fifth seed, who is fresh from his triumph in Marseille last week. Despite that the Polish World No. 11 never allowed the Serbian to gain control of the match, producing thunderbolt serves whenever he was in trouble.

The World No. 1 needed only two breaks — one apiece in each set — to win the match in one hour and 21 minutes. When the opportunity presented, Djokovic upped his game to win the big points.

When Hurkacz’s serve came under pressure

Hurkacz came close to breaking Djokovic in the second set when he gained a 0-30 advantage while leading 5-4. But Djokovic was unperturbed as he served his way out of trouble with an ace and a service winner to wrap up the game.

Soon the World No. 11 from Poland was forced to ward off four break points, but Djokovic unleashed a delectable backhand winner down the line to claim the break. The rest was easy as the Australian Open champion served an ace and a service winner for a place in the semifinals.

read more

“It was a challenging match against Hubert [Hurkacz], one of the best guys on the Tour. In the second set, until that 11th game, I didn’t really have too many chances against his serve. He was winning his serves comfortably,” Djokovic said during a courtside interview.

“Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on serve throughout the second set and held my serve. Love-30 and 5-4 for him, a couple of good serves, good plays; one or two points can decide the winner of matches like this. Not much separating both the players. I’m really, really glad at the way I played under pressure,” the top seed said.

“I’m feeling as close to best that I could possibly feel. Of course, you can always be better. I’m playing on a high level and I’m happy with [my] tennis,” Djokovic said, as he moved closer to his 94th Tour title. In the last four, he will meet third seed Daniil Medvedev, who knocked out eighth-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinal.