World no. 1 Novak Djokovic is through to his ninth semi-final in Dubai and the first in five years, beating Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and six minutes. The Serb was the dominant figure for the third time this week in Dubai, earning enough points to stay in front of Rafael Nadal in the race for the ATP throne and delivering his 19th consecutive triumph, unbeaten since November and the ATP Finals.
It was the fourth meeting between two good friends who trained together here in Dubai, with Djokovic earning the third victory to set the semi-final clash against Gael Monfils or Richard Gasquet on Friday. The Serb did everything right on the court, dictating the pace and marvelously mixing his strokes (especially the drop shots) to keep Khachanov away from the comfort zone and keep the points on his racquet.
Djokovic lost 13 points in eight service games, getting broken once in the opener when he was already miles ahead and taking almost 60% of the return points to steal Karen's serve five times from nine opportunities and wrap up another comfortable victory in his first tournament after the Australian Open.
Novak raced into a 5-1 lead in the opener in some 20 minutes before Karen pulled one break to show the fighting spirit and at least prolong the set. Djokovic held with a perfect drop shot winner in the third game and broke Khachanov at love with a beautiful return down the line winner to gain the advantage.
The Serb at love with a volley winner to confirm the lead, taking 12 of the last 13 points and racing towards the finish line in the opener. Karen netted a backhand in the sixth game to suffer another break, allowing Novak to serve for the set before getting one break back after a forehand mistake from the Serb.
Still, Djokovic grabbed another break in game eight to claim the opener 6-2 in 32 minutes, hitting nine winners and seven unforced errors to stand far above the Russian. Khachanov saved a break chance in the second game of the second set to stay in touch before Djokovic broke him at love in the fourth game (just like in the opener) with a perfect lob to move in front.
The four-time champion sealed the fifth game in no time at all, securing another break at 5-2 to emerge at the top and reach the last four for the ninth time in the desert.