World no. 123 Jiri Vesely defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-6 in an hour and 57 minutes in the Dubai quarter-final. The five-time champion experienced by far the worst loss in the desert and stepped down from the ATP throne after over two years, sending Daniil Medvedev to the top.
Novak played well in the opening two matches, kicking off the season in Dubai but failing to go all the way, experiencing his second defeat against the Czech from as many encounters. Both players had around 30 winners and 15 unforced errors, and Vesely claimed three points more than Djokovic to seal the deal in straight sets and advance into the first ATP semi-final since Pune 2020.
Jiri played better behind the second serve and fended off three out of five break chances to keep the pressure on world no. 1. Novak suffered three breaks from eight opportunities offered to his rival, failing to deliver his best tennis when he needed it the most to finish his journey in the quarters.
Vesely had the edge in the mid-range and most extended rallies and followed Djokovic's pace from the baseline to move into the next round. The Serb sprayed a backhand error in the opening game to suffer an early break, and the Czech cemented the advantage with a booming serve in game two.
Novak got his name on the scoreboard with a forehand drive-volley winner in the third game and broke back a few minutes later when Jiri sprayed a backhand error. Djokovic wasted a game point at 3-3, and Vesely earned a break chance with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Novak Djokovic will step down from the ATP throne after two years on Monday.
The Czech seized the second break point after the Serb's double fault and moved 5-3 up with an unreturned serve. Serving at 5-4, Jiri blasted another powerful serve to wrap up the set after 47 minutes.
Both players served well in the second set's opening six games to stay neck and neck before Vesely grabbed a break at 3-3 with a cracking backhand down the line winner that sent him in front. Novak placed a backhand wide in game eight, wasting a break chance and finding himself on the verge of defeat.
Staying focused, world no. 1 pulled the break back in game ten when his rival sent a backhand wide, leveling the score at 5-5 and gathering a boost. Djokovic saved a break point with a service winner in game 11, and the set went into a tie break.
Vesely forged a 3-0 advantage with a volley winner and moved 5-3 in front following Djokovic's costly double fault. Serving at 5-4, Jiri grabbed two points behind the initial shot and moved over the top with a forehand winner that delivered his most notable victory in years.