Daniil Medvedev in action against Alexander Bublik (unseen) during their Dubai Open match on Wednesday.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
The world No. 1 Novak Djokovic swept aside Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3 to storm into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
The Serbian star, who is bidding for a sixth Dubai crown, took 81 minutes to beat the Dutch.
After facing a tough time against Czech qualifier Tomas Machac in his opening round match, the top seed showed his form and played aggressively to take the first set with two breaks of serve.
Firing on all cylinders, the 22-time Grand Slam winner raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set. Later, he double faulted, which allowed Griekspoor to win a game, but his joy was short-lived as the reigning Australian Open champion broke back immediately and later served out the set with ease.
“It’s been a great evening for me tonight,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “Yesterday I really had to work hard to get a win. Tonight, right from the blocks, I think I was sharp. I played definitely better-quality tennis than I did last night.
“Maybe the last three or four games weren’t the best to close the match, but I managed to find a good serve in the end. I’m very pleased with the performance and with the way I felt on the court, and hopefully things can go in the right direction for tomorrow,” added the 35-year-old, who this week became the longest-serving world No. 1 in tennis history.
Third seed Daniil Medvedev also booked the quarter-finals berth with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.
The Russian extended his winning streak to 11 consecutive matches with the victory over Kazakh.
Producing a remarkable comeback, defending champion Andrey Rubley staved off five match points in the second-set tiebreak before overcoming Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 1-6, 7-6, 7-6 to secure a spot in the quarter-finals
The second-seeded Russian took two hours and 25 minutes to edge past the Spaniard at the Centre Court.
The world No. 29 Davidovich Fokina started well and gained the upper hand after winning the first set 6-1. He even took the lead in the tiebreaker of the second set 6-1. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Rublev, while holding his nerves, reeled off seven points in a row to keep his hopes alive of winning his second straight title.
It was the third time this season, after victories over Holger Rune at the Australian Open and Tallon Griekspoor in Doha last week, that the world No. 6 clawed back from facing match points.
“It’s happened already [three times] this season, and I’m super happy that I am able to win these matches,” said Rublev in his post-match press conference.
“The beginning of today’s match wasn’t good. I got frustrated. He started really well; he was hitting really hard, and I didn’t have many options, but then, little by little, I started to play and started to fight.
“I started to be positive, and I made this crazy tie-break comeback from 1/6 that I’ve never done in my life before… I’m really, really happy,” added the 25-year-old.
Rublev will next face Botic van de Zandschulp, who also rallied to beat Mikael Ymer 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Lorenzo Sonego advanced to the last eight after stunning fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Sonego managed to win the closely contested opening set and later, with a break in the seventh game of the second set, wrapped up the match against world No. 9.
“It was really tough today, but I played really well,” said the world No. 67 from Italy.
“I was really aggressive with my serve… I improved my game this year, and I have some good experience on the ATP Tour. I’m really happy to beat Felix (Auger-Aliassime),” he added.
Seventh seed Alexander Zverev, who is making his way back after a long-term injury, progressed to the quarter-finals after beating Christopher O’Connell 7-5, 6-4.
The German took 78 minutes to defeat the Australian qualifier for a place in the semi-finals. The 25-year-old German, who reached a career-high world No. 2 ranking on the ATP Tour last year, will face Sonego.
Eight seed Borna Coric managed to reach the quarter-finals after battling past Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-5.
Speaking about her plans to open a tennis academy in Dubai, she added: "My new project is about opening a tennis academy here in Dubai for local Emirati tennis player to become a champion and one day have the chance to play in Wimbledon and elsewhere..."
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Alexei Popyrin and Roger Federer have something in common. They both started out in tennis as ball kids. Actually, they have two things in common. Both spend much of their time in Dubai, and Alexei would like to get the message out to the Swiss Master that if he's looking for someone to hit with then he's available. Anytime!
The committee directed the referees to allow any Muslim player to break the fast during the evening matches during the month of Ramadan.
Lions Led by Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan's breezy half-centuries Asian Lions scored an emphatic seven-wicket victory with 23 balls to spare.
The Team Games Co. in Hatta Sports Club organizes the championship, held annually during the Holy Month of Ramadan, with the support of Dubai Sports Council.