Novak Djokovic on Thursday stayed on course for his third title of the year by powering into the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Hubert Hurkacz.
The 35-year-old Serbian won in Adelaide before sealing his 22nd Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open while managing a hamstring injury and has hit top form after a slow start in Dubai on his return to the ATP Tour.
Having breezed through the first set on the back of a single break, Djokovic found the going a bit tougher in the next as the big-serving Hurkacz raised his game in search of a first win over the world No. 1 in their fifth meeting.
After a crucial hold from 0-30 down to draw level at 5-5, Djokovic grabbed another break to heap the pressure on Hurkacz and the five-time champion closed out the match on serve.
“It was a challenging match as it always is against Hubert,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s got one of the best serves in the game. In the second set, until the 11th game, I didn’t have too many chances against his serve. Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on my serve ... one or two points can decide the winner in matches like these. I’m really glad with the way I played under pressure.”
Up next for Djokovic is a meeting with former world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who beat Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2.
Earlier, Alexander Zverev reached his first semi-final since last year’s French Open with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Lorenzo Sonego.
The seventh seed has had a torrid time after injuring his ankle at Roland Garros and undergoing surgery, only returning to the ATP Tour in December last year after suffering a bone edema problem during his rehabilitation.
“It’s been a very difficult time for me over the last nine months,” world No. 16 Zverev said. “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 next plays defending champion Andrey Rublev after the combustible Russian overcame a late wobble to get past Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
Zverev has won each of their five meetings, including their last one in the 2021 Western & Southern Open final in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It’s going to be tough,” Rublev said. “I have to play good, aggressive tennis.”
ON ANOTHER LEVEL: In a pregame speech, Ohtani urged his teammates ‘to throw away their admiration’ for the US, because they ‘came here to surpass them, to reach the top’ Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout had dreamed of this moment, along with millions of fans throughout Japan and the US: the two biggest stars on the planet, longtime teammates, facing each other at 60 feet, 6 inches, the world title at stake. Of course, the count went full on Tuesday night, and Ohtani got Trout to swing under a slider on the outside corner, sealing Japan’s 3-2 win and their first World Baseball Classic (WBC) title since 2009. “This is the best moment in my life,” Ohtani said through a translator. Ohtani, the two-way star who has captivated fans across two continents, was
With cherry blossoms reaching full bloom in Tokyo, Japanese sports fans erupted in jubilation yesterday, after their compatriots defeated the US to win the World Baseball Classic (WBC). More than a hundred people gathered near Shimbashi Station in the city center to get special newspaper editions celebrating the victory. The scene quickly turned chaotic, with police officers jumping in to help hand out copies. “I am so proud as a Japanese national,” said Yuji Takeno, a 33-year-old company worker who was among those gathered in Shimbashi. “I also play baseball for leisure and it makes me want to work harder, that’s how
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka on Tuesday said she struggled to understand the “hate” she encountered in the locker room amid strained relations between some players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The world No. 2 has previously said she has nothing against Ukrainians and felt bad for them as Moscow’s action rages on. Belarus has been a staging area for the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.” “It was really tough for me because I’ve never faced that much hate in the locker room,” Sabalenka said ahead of the Miami Open. “There are a lot of haters on Instagram when you’re losing
When Shohei Ohtani reached second base after hitting a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday, he immediately looked up at the crowd and waved his arms, in a rare sign of emotion, as if he knew what was coming next. Ohtani’s clutch hit sparked a late rally, and moments later Munetaka Murakami delivered a walk-off, two-run double to lift Japan over Mexico 6-5 and into the World Baseball Classic final. Two-time champions Japan were to face the defending champions the US in yesterday night’s title game at 7pm in Miami. After Monday’s game, Japan team members rushed