ATP Dubai: Novak Djokovic digs deep and kicks off title chase

Novak Djokovic defeated Tomas Machac in three sets in the opening round

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Dubai: Novak Djokovic digs deep and kicks off title chase

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic kicked off his 13th Dubai campaign, 16 years after debuting in the desert. Novak faced a qualifier Tomas Machac in the opening round and scored a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 victory after two hours and 27 minutes.

Thus, Djokovic earned his 44th triumph in Dubai and extended his perfect record in the opening rounds at this event. Novak competed for the first time since securing his 22nd Major title at the Australian Open. He lost the second set before bouncing back in the decider to emerge at the top and improve his 2023 score to 13-0.

Machac fought well and came back from 4-1 down in the final set to extend his chances against the world's leading player. Still, Novak clinched the tie break to emerge at the top and move into the second round. World no. 1 saved seven out of ten break points and stole the rival's serve three times.

Djokovic struggled to find the first serve in the opening set. However, he saved two out of three break points and stole the rival's serve twice for 6-3. Novak held after deuce in the encounter's first game and forced Tomas' mistake at 1-1 for a hold at love.

The young Czech faced problems on serve in the fourth game and sprayed a forehand error on the third break point to fall 3-1 behind. It was Novak's turn to play a loose service game in game five, spraying a forehand error and bringing Tomas back to the positive side.

Machac lost the ground behind the initial shot again in game six and fell 4-2 behind. Djokovic increased the advantage with a fine hold a few minutes later and clinched the set 6-3 with a hold at love in game nine. The Czech served at only 50% in the second set, which was not an obstacle for him.

He served well, grabbed an early break and clinched the set on his serve at 5-3. Tomas forced Novak's backhand error in the second game to open a 2-0 gap and settle into a fine rhythm. The Czech moved 3-0 in front with a comfortable hold and created more break chances in game four.

Novak Djokovic prevailed over Tomas Machac in the deciding tie break.

Novak saved two break points to remain within one break deficit, and they both produced reliable holds in the next four games. Tomas served for the set at 5-3 and faced a break point after a wayward backhand.

He denied it with a backhand down the line winner and wrapped up the set after Novak's loose forehand to force a decider after an hour and 18 minutes. Djokovic experienced another issue at the start of the final set, repelling a break point in the opening game and gaining a boost.

Machac asked for a medical timeout on his right hand after the first game and suffered a break at love at 1-2 when his backhand landed long. The Serb produced a comfortable hold in the next one for 4-1 and moved closer to the finish line.

Djokovic saved a break point in game seven and faced the second after netting a forehand. Novak landed a backhand long to experience a break and bring the rival back to the positive side. Machac held in game eight after deuce to rattle off three straight games and level the score at 4-4 for more drama.

Djokovic ended his downfall with an easy winner at the net in game nine, holding at love and sending the pressure to the other side. Novak moved 30-15 up on the return in game ten with a forehand winner before Tomas grabbed the next point with a serve & volley combo.

The Czech stayed calm and closed the game with a powerful serve for 5-5. The Serb fired a service winner in the 11th game for a hold at 30 and another advantage. Machac served to stay in the match at 5-6 and played bold and aggressive shots for a hold at 15 and a deciding tie break.

Novak forced the rival's mistake in the fourth point and fired a service winner for 4-1. The Serb claimed a return point to increase the advantage and fired a return winner for five match points. Djokovic seized the first with a forehand winner to seal the deal.

Atp Dubai Novak Djokovic Tomas Machac