Khachanov and Kohlschreiber Early Winners At Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
February 24, 2020 – DUBAI, UAE: Dubai resident Karen Khachanov reached the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday with a 7-6 (2) 6-1 win over Mikhail Kukushkin, and tour veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber overcame a bold challenge from Egyptian wild card Mohamed Safwat, winning 4-6 6-4 6-0.
Safwat, who recently won his first Challenger title in his 133rd tournament spread over 10 years, broke Kohlschreiber at love to take the first set, but Kohlschreiber edged through the second set and them dominated the third.
Injury played a part in Safwat’s defeat, as he explained, “Towards in the middle of the second set, I don’t know, I just start to feel little bit pain in my quadriceps. It just was on the serve. The points were okay. I think in general overall was good match. Yeah, he’s also tough opponent. He has more experience than me. There are positive and negative in the match. I just have to look again on the match, see what I could do better.”
Kohlschreiber was disappointed with the way he let the first set get away, but was impressed with his opponent.
“I think I missed too many opportunities in the first set,” said Kohlschreiber “Well, he won the big points, served quite well on the breakpoints. I think I gave him too many easy mistakes. I was in quite a, yeah, good position many times, but I missed quite easy shots. I was not unhappy with my game, but this took away a little bit of my confidence. I played too safe. He stepped it up and played aggressive, especially in the last game, 5-4. He was returning very well. He took the chances to play aggressive.
“I think he played very good. He is a player with a high intensity of game. He’s moving around very well. His forehand is a good weapon. I think he served also very well. Yeah, he’s a good guy, improved a lot.”
Khachanov made a slow start, trailing 1-3 and 2-4 before seizing control in the tiebreak and then sprinting to a 5-0 lead in the second set.
“Yeah, was not easy opening match,” he said. “Always first round is pretty tough. I’m really happy I could get the win. I have another match, another opportunity to play better. There were some difficult moments during the match. That’s really great to keep that set, the first set. I think it was important one. The second set was going everything much better.
“Yeah, just to find more balance between aggressive shots and still pushing through the ball. I think footwork was good. Serve was okay. Yeah, some situations where I was actually taking the lead, but I couldn’t finish the point. I was missing some quite easy balls. It’s never easy. But still they were like really, really close to the net that I should finish it up and just make those points. I don’t know if it’s about focus or concentration or just tight moments into the match.”
The tournament also includes world number one and reigning Wimbledon and Australian champion Novak Djokovic, along with second seed and 2019 Dubai runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas. While Djokovic is playing his first tournament since lifting the Australian Open trophy for the eighth time, on Sunday Tsitsipas demonstrated that he will be a serious threat here by retaining an ATP Tour title for the first time in his career by winning his second trophy in Marseille. It is the second straight year in which he has won Marseille without dropping a set, and he is the first man since Thomas Enqvist in 1998 to win back-to-back Marseille crowns.
Three of the top 10 and seven of the top 20 are among those bidding for the title this week, with Djokovic seeking his fifth title and Roberto Bautista Agut his second in Dubai. No less than four players who are competing in Dubai this week have already won titles this year. As well as Djokovic winning the ATP Cup team competition and in Melbourne, and Tsitsipas’s triumph in Marseille, last month Andrei Rublev became the first man in 16 years to win back-to-back titles in the opening two weeks of the season by claiming the trophy in both Doha and Adelaide, and Gael Monfils recently won consecutive titles in Montpelier and Rotterdam.