After a perfect start of the season at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic regained the ATP throne from Rafael Nadal and continued his quest towards most weeks as world no. 1 since 1973. Following that thrilling victory over Dominic Thiem in the final in Melbourne, Novak took a couple of weeks off and came back in Dubai in the last week of February, standing as the top favorite for another title, the first in the desert since 2013.
The Serb dominated in the opening three matches against Malek Jaziri, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Karen Khachanov, dropping 11 games in total and spending just over three hours on the court, saving energy for the clash against an in-form Frenchman Gael Monfils.
As it turned out, Djokovic had to dig deep to prevail, losing 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 set the final clash versus Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The young Greek lost to Roger Federer in the title match in Dubai 12 months ago and couldn't beat another legend on the last step between him and the crown, with Djokovic scoring a 6-3, 6-4 victory for the fifth trophy at this ATP 500 event.
It was the 13th crown at this level (in 2009, the ATP 500 series replaced the ATP International Series Gold) for Novak and they all came on hard court, matching Roger Federer's record and looking good to become the leader of the pack this season or in 2021.
Back in 2009, Djokovic made the most energetic start at this level, conquering Dubai, Beijing and Basel to gain an advantage over the Swiss, increasing the lead to 5-1 after 2010. At the end of 2013 season, Novak had nine ATP 500 titles on hard courts in comparison to four for Roger who forged a small edge in the next four seasons, with Djokovic focusing on Majors and the Masters 1000 tournaments.
In 2018 and 2019, Federer grabbed four crowns and Djokovic stayed on 1, with the Swiss moving in front in Basel last October before the Serb leveled the score again in Dubai.