Novak Djokovic was searching for his best tennis throughout Friday’s semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But following a 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Daniil Medvedev, the World No. 1 didn’t have to look too far to find the key reason behind his first loss of the season.
“I lost to a better opponent,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “I know that I didn’t play well in some decisive moments, but it was also due to his quality of tennis. It’s unfortunate I had some really bad mistakes in the first set to give him the second break. But this is tennis. You learn from your mistakes and from the defeats, and hopefully next time I’ll be better.”
The 35-year-old, who entered the match a perfect 15-0 in 2023, complimented the World No. 7’s consistency and defence as the key factors in Friday’s contest as he struggled to find his own rhythm. The World No. 1 committed 38 unforced errors to Medvedev’s 12. Although the 22-time major champion still holds a 9-5 ATP Head2Head advantage over Medvedev, he knows that the 27-year-old’s counterpunching ability can bring even the best players unglued.
“He extracts and provokes unforced errors from everybody because that’s his game, that’s what he does,” Djokovic said. “He does it extremely well. He’s very patient. He’s very athletic. For his height, he moves well. Backhand is one of the most consistent strokes that you have in today’s game.”
Despite suffering his first straight-sets defeat since the 2022 Laver Cup (l. Auger-Aliassime), Djokovic is remaining upbeat. Though he won’t be lifting the Dubai trophy for a sixth time, the Belgrade native still made history Monday by marking his 378th week as World No. 1, surpassing Stefanie Graf’s record for most weeks atop the sport by a men’s or women’s player.
A two-time titlist this year, Djokovic stated that he is leaving the U.A.E. pleased with the recovery progress he’s made since suffering a hamstring injury in Australia.
“Lots of positives,” Djokovic said. “The way I felt throughout the entire week makes me really satisfied with the current state of my body, not knowing how I [was] going to react with the comeback after an injury. I’m really glad. We move on to the next challenge.”
Djokovic’s immediate playing schedule depends on the outcome of his request for an exemption to the United States’ entry requirements for non citizens, who must provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination before entering the country. If Djokovic is not granted an exemption and misses Indian Wells and Miami, his next tournament will be in Monte Carlo.
“I’m still waiting for the news from America,” Djokovic said. “If there’s no America, I guess I’ll play clay. Monte Carlo is probably the next tournament. If that’s the case, I’ll take some time off, I’ll prepare. Clay is the most demanding surface. It takes more time than any other surface to prepare for.”
Regardless if his next match is played on a hard court or clay, Djokovic is eager for his next battle.
“I take every tournament, every match very seriously, dedicate my whole life to this,” Djokovic said. “So, of course, it hurts when you lose. I care about every match. But at the same time you just have to release it and go forward.
“Good thing about tennis is that you always have another opportunity. So many tournaments. Basically every week you have another chance to reconcile, so to say, [and] rewrite your history once again. I’m looking forward to the challenges to come.”