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ATP Dubai: Novak Djokovic produces miraculous escape to beat Gael Monfils…see full details…

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World no. 1 Novak Djokovic is through to his sixth Dubai final and the first since 2015, ousting Gael Monfils 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 in two hours and 35 minutes. It was the clash of the players with 16 victories so far in 2020 and Gael wasted a colossal chance of beating Novak for the first time in 16 official encounters, wasting a 6-3 advantage in the second set tie break and fading from the court after squandering those match points.

Novak needed time to find the rhythm against an in-form rival, getting broke three times in sets one and two and fiding himself a set and a break down before making a comeback to reach the tie break where he came from the verge of defeat to survive and stay on the title course.

Novak Djokovic playing

It was essential for Monfils to make a strong start and stay in touch in the opener, as long as possible. Instead of that, the Frenchman went even further and left world no. 1 behind, dropping six points behind the initial shot and stealing half of the return points to rule the scoreboard and finish the job with two breaks.

They had the same number of winners, with 17 unforced errors from Djokovic’s racquet that made all the difference, unable to find the space and endure longer rallies with an in-form rival. Novak saved a break point in the opening game before giving serve away in a marathon game three when his backhand landed long, sending Gael in front and giving him an even stronger boost.

A service winner pushed Monfils 3-1 in front, overpowering Novak from the backhand wing two games later to stay in the lead and keep the pressure on the other side of the net. Unable to find his usual rhythm, Djokovic suffered another break in game seven following a terrible drop shot, allowing Gael to wrap up the set with a service winner in the next game for a 6-2 after 45 minutes.

Novak Djokovic

More troubles were waiting for Novak just around the corner, playing a loose forehand in the third game to get broken at love, drifting further and further away from the positive side of the scoreboard. A forehand crosscourt winner secured the break for the Frenchman who finally lost ground behind the initial shot two games later, netting a forehand to hand the break to Djokovic who leveled the score at 3-3.

The four-time champion held with an ace to move in front before Gael did the same to follow that pace and make an instant recovery to keep chances of sealing the deal in straight sets alive. Djokovic delivered the third straight comfortable hold to move 5-4 up, creating a set point in the next game that he squandered with a loose forehand.

Novak Djokovic

Another error from the right wing cost Novak the second set point, with Monfils surviving to level the score at 5-5 with two booming serves. Facing the third set point at 5-6, Gael placed a perfect drop shot winner to deny it, erasing another one following a grueling rally to remain in the set.

The fifth set point came and gone for Novak after a forehand winner from Monfils who finally closed the game to set up a tie break. There, Gael forced an error from Novak to open a 4-2 gap, staying in front with a backhand down the line winner in the eighth point.

Novak Djokovic

A forehand winner gave him three match points but Novak repelled them all to bring the result back to 6-6 and prolong the drama. Monfils saved a set point at 6-7 with a service winner before Djokovic grabbed a mini-break, spraying a forehand mistake in the next point to keep Gael in the set before moving 9-8 up after a well-constructed attack.

A double fault from the Frenchman turned to be the last point of the set, with Novak celebrating another miraculous escape ahead of the deciding set where he was the favorite now. The entire world knew what was about to happen in the final set after that crazy outcome of the second set, with Djokovic securing breaks in games three and five to race into the lead and crossing the finish line with another break at 5-1 after a forehand winner to set Stefanos Tsitsipas clash for the title.

Ashleigh Barty: “Novak Djokovic is an incredible ambassador for our sport”
Ashleigh Barty and Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic started 2020 in an incredible way, winning the ATP Cup and the Australian Open for the eighth time in his career. The Serbian champion is back number 1 in the world thanks to his success in Melbourne and could exceed Roger Federer’s record of weeks at the top.

During a recent interview, Ashleigh Barty had some words of praise for her World number 1 counterpart in the ATP ranking: “Novak is incredible. Obviously, for him the start of the year has been incredible in Australia,” the 23-year-old Australian said, speaking to press at Doha before the start of the event.

Novak Djokovic

“I think Australians see him having a little bit of that Aussie spirit, having won so many times Down Under. I know that he’s an incredible athlete, he’s an incredible ambassador for our sport. He’s a great person to bring our sport into the light”.

She also added: “I needed to have an extra few days off just to let my body settle. We had a couple of little niggles going on after the Australian Open,” she said. “I think it was about 10 days of no racket and then, just because I needed to give myself those extra few days.

Ashleigh Barty tennis superstar

In a perfect world, it probably would have been just under a week, but I had to give myself that extra time just to make sure that it didn’t derail the rest of my season. Sometimes you have to make those decisions to make sure that in the long-term you are looking after yourself.

I feel really good now. For me, this is a new place to visit, a new experience, a new culture and I’m loving it”.

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