Dubai: It might not have been an exciting match between Novak Djokovic and Tallon Griekspoor, but it had the script the packed house was eagerly waiting for with the Serb racing to a straight-set win in the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
After labouring to a three-set win over qualifier Tomas Machac on Tuesday, the world No 1 was at ease, racing to a comfortable lead in the first set before winning it comfortably. The second went on similar lines with Djokovic winning 6-2, 6-3.
“Great evening for me tonight. Right from the beginning, I played better quality tennis than last night. Last three, four games were not best, but pleased with the performance. I am very close to my best,” said the world No 1, who entered his 13th quarterfinals in Dubai.
“Tallon is one of the most-improved players on tour, the new generation is coming, but I am not afraid.”
Griekspoor, one of the fastest-improving talent on the ATP Tour, ranked 39, raised his game, but still could not keep the Serbian quiet, as Djokovic came up with stunning winners.
A semblance of the Dutch’s talent started coming out during the long game when it went to deuce on several occasions, but unforced errors on his strong forehand did not help as Djokovic moved to a 5-0 lead.
Buoyed by his first success in the second set, Griekspoor’s game improved a few notches higher and aided by a couple of double faults, the Dutch broke Djokovic’s serve for the first time, albeit the success coming far too late before the world No 1 won on his second match point.
Shifting goals has been the key factor forDjokovic to keep playing the game with the same intensity at the highest level. After setting the record for highest weeks as world No 1, surpassing Steffi Graf, the Serbian ace has immediately reset his goals, now looking at Grand Slams and staying healthy to prolong his career.
“When I achieved the world No 1 for the first time in 2011, I had to set up new goals, new dreams. Being No 1 was always the ultimate goal, ultimate achievement in tennis. I tried to stay there as long as I possibly can and staying relatively healthy throughout my career allowed me to have the consistency. I’m very proud of this achievement. I wanted to break Roger’s record, I wanted to break Steffi’s record when I was so close. Why not, but now, I just focus on some other goals,” Djokovic said.
“I will be 36 this year, so I just don’t think at the moment this is highest priority. My first priority I would like to stay healthy and prolong my career as much as I can to play on this highest level and the other priority is to play the best tennis in Grand Slams, trying to win more Grand Slams. Then if No 1 ranking in the world comes as a consequence of good results, I’ll be very happy.”
Just the way Djokovic analysis his rival’s game, he also sees how in the future the world No 1 will become a merry-go-round.
“There are a lot of challengers coming up. Carlos Alcaraz probably is one of the leaders of the next generation, then you have Stefanos Tsitsipas. These guys are just playing on a high-level constantly and playing a lot of tournaments, a lot of weeks. I’m not playing as much and I don’t plan to play as many weeks as they do. Eventually, they’ll take the No 1, then I’ll bring it back again, then they’ll take it again, then we go in circles,” the Serbian world No 1, who felt he is moving well but fitness-wise is not at his best, said.
“Some uncharacteristic errors happening from both ends. I guess that’s part of the process of finding the timing, finding the tempo, finding the balance on the court. I wasn’t thinking about my leg today, which is great. It was not bothering me at all. That’s great news. But injury is an injury,” he added.
Qualifier Machac pushed the world No 1 to his limits in his first match on his return from winning the Australian Open title in Melbourne a month ago.
“I was nervous at the start, playing against the world No 1. It was a great opportunity to play against him. I tried to play my game, it worked in the first and second sets. It worked and I was lucky. I played to play every ball as if it was my last match,” Machac, the world No 130, said. “This performance will give me great confidence and I now has proved the world what my game is and that will help me to approach my future games with less pressure.”
The one learning from this game? “I can play the best player in the world,” he added and aims to stay injury free and take every single step well over the rest of the year.