Dubai: World number one and top seed Novak Djokovic sealed his rightful spot in the semi-finals after second seed and last year’s runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas had huffed his way through at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open, late on Thursday.
Winner here on four earlier occasions — three successive ones from 2009 to 2011 and a fourth in 2013 — Djokovic made light work of yet another opponent when he tamed Dubai resident Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-2 before a packed weekend crowd at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
The win helped the 32-year-old Serbian to take his blameless record this season to 16-0 that includes his triumphs at the inaugural ATP Cup and an eighth success at the Australian Open.
“I am feeling well and playing well too. It was quite swirly on court and it wasn’t easy to find the rhythm. He could have done much better, but I am glad to come through for another semi-final in a place that I love to play in,” Djokovic said.
“Staying focused throughout is very crucial. It can be quite tricky while trying to execute my game plan, and staying calm is always important,” he added.
Th day’s opening quarter-final proved to be the biggest shocker after Great Britain’s Dan Evans surprised himself with a career first-ever ATP 500 semi-final while packing off sixth seed Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (9) in a gripping two hours and eleven minutes on centre court.
But, Tsitsipas — winner of his second Marseille Open last Sunday — clawed his way back to defeat unheralded German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-4.
Evans — who had lost in three sets to Rublev in the quarter-finals of the Adelaide Open last month — made his first-ever ATP 500 semi-finals in the bargain, while the 21-year-old Tsitsipas drew level 2-2 in the head-to-head career record against his German opponent.
“It was tough. Just hung in at the end and got through. It was good tennis, but I just didn’t fancy playing another set as it seemed pretty difficult. I think that’s what got me through,” Evans said.
Neither was it easy for Tsitsipas, who is seeking to go one better than his loss in the final to Roger Federer last year, as he took two hours and 22 minutes to pack off a resilient Struff. Tsitsipas will now meet Evans in Friday’s first semi-final on centre court at 5pm.
“I had to give it my all,” Tsitsipas told his growing band of supporters in Dubai.
“I just fought and suffered on court and in the end it is a huge relief to go through such a tough opponent. I took it point by point really. I think I’m actually pretty proud that I fought so hard, played with attention when I had to. When I got the break in the third set I knew that was my time to close the match now. I did it in perfect style,” he added.
Men’s singles quarter-finals: Novak Djokovic bt Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-2; Dan Evans bt Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (9); Stefanos Tsitsipas bt Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Men’s doubles quarter-finals: Raven Klaasen/Oliver Marach bt Wesley Koolhof/Nikola Mektic 7-5, 6-4; Jurgen Melzer/Edouard Roger-Vasselin bt Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies 6-4, 7-6 (1).