Novak Djokovic kicked off his season at this week's ATP 500 event in Dubai, competing for the first time since the last year's Davis Cup Finals. Novak scored two victories before losing to a qualifier Jiri Vesely 6-4, 7-6 in the quarter-final, failing to claim the sixth title in the desert.
Thus, Djokovic could not conquer the 14th ATP 500 hard-court title and move in front of Roger Federer, as they still share the record with 13. Novak's last ATP 500 crown came in Dubai two years ago, making a great start of the season and extending it in the desert for his fifth Dubai crown.
It was Novak's first trophy at this event since 2013, making a great start and surviving a stern Gael Monfils' challenge to advance into the final. The Serb dominated the opening three matches against Malek Jaziri, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Karen Khachanov, dropping 11 games in six sets and spending just over three hours on the court to save energy for the semi-final clash.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are tied on 13 hard-court ATP 500 titles.
As it turned out, Djokovic had to dig deep against Monfils in a battle for the final. The Serb lost steam for a set and a half before making a comeback, fending off three match points in the second set tie break and bringing the victory home in the decider to remain on the title course.
A year after losing the Dubai final to Roger Federer, Stefanos Tsitsipas made another and faced the legend in the title clash. Djokovic proved too strong and defeated the Greek 6-3, 6-4 for the fifth trophy at this ATP 500 event.
It was the 13th crown at this level (the ATP 500 series replaced the ATP International Series Gold in 2009) for Novak, and they all came on hard court, matching Roger Federer's record. Back in 2009, Djokovic made the most energetic ATP 500 start, conquering Dubai, Beijing and Basel to gain an advantage over the Swiss and increasing it to 5-1 after 2010.
At the end of the 2013 season, Novak had nine hard-court ATP 500 titles by his name, five more than Roger. The Swiss forged a slight lead in the next four years, as Djokovic focused on Majors and Masters 1000 events. Federer grabbed four hard-court ATP 500 crowns in 2018 and 2019, while Djokovic stayed on one.
Roger became the leader of the pack after Basel 2019, and Novak matched him in Dubai two years ago.