Semis Set in Dubai – Djokovic To Play Monfils and Tsitsipas Faces Evans
(February 27, 2020) Top seed Novak Djokovic eased past Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday to reach the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and he will next play third seed Gael Monfils who defeated Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-3. Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and unseeded Daniel Evans will battle for the other place in the final after both claimed tense victories. Tsitsipas edged past Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 6-4 6-4, and Evans upset sixth seed Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (9).
Djokovic has now won 19 consecutive matches dating back to last year’s Davis Cup Finals and has won 45 of the 50 sets he has played in that time span. Although he felt that he had to fight against the wind as well as his opponent, he still managed to win in just over an hour.
“Well, I think the wind was even stronger today on the court, changing directions all the time,” said the world number one. “It was really, really tough to get the rhythm for the serve. I wasn’t serving as well as I have in the first two matches in terms of first-serve percentage. But second serve was quite accurate. I used I guess all spots in the boxes, both ends, pretty well.
“I don’t think Karen has played up to par. He knows and he’s capable to play much better than he has tonight. He made a lot of unforced errors, which obviously made my life easier especially in the first set to go up 5-1, two breaks. But I think from my end was a solid, solid performance. I moved well in the defence. I was using the variety, the dropshots, always making him guess what is coming next. That was the goal obviously.”
After dropping his serve to lose the opening set Tsitsipas broke at the beginning of the second, but still had to survive two break points as he served out to level the match. In the final set, Tsitsipas failed to capitalise on four break points at 0-0 and it wasn’t until two hours 18 minutes into the match that he took the lead for the first time by earning the decisive break at 4-4.
“I was struggling with my return today,” said Tsitsipas. “I don’t know what was wrong with it. I kept hitting the ball out of position, kind of far from me, sometimes close from me. I couldn’t really find enough space to get that right momentum to hit the ball. I think that was the biggest struggle today. I tried changing a little bit my return.
“I think I’m actually pretty proud that I fought so hard, played with attention when I had to. When I got the break in the third set I knew that was my time to close the match now. I did it in perfect style.”
Evans had to battle for every point against Rublev, especially to close out each set. To win the first he fended off five break points at 5-2 before clinching it with his third set point, and after failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set he had to fight off two set points in the tiebreak before claiming victory on his third match point. He will now contest his first semi-final since he defeated John Isner at the same stage a year ago to reach the Delray Beach final.
“Yeah, it was tough,” said Evans, who will make his top 30 debut next week. “Just hung in at the end and got through. It was good tennis. Just didn’t fancy playing another set. I think that’s what got me through. His game is not a great match up for me. He doesn’t miss many returns. I got it just right to hit and mix it up. Sometimes you can do too much of one and not enough of the another. Yeah, I was happy with how I did all that. It was good to get through in the end.”
Monfils extended his career-best winning streak to 12 matches by defeating Gasquet, and he has now won 24 consecutive sets. He was untroubled in the opening set as he broke to lead 3-2 and again for the set, and an early break in the second set allowed him to maintain his advantage and go on to earn a place in the semi-finals for a third consecutive tournament.