Novak Djokovic is moving closer to his devastating best.
The World No. 1 answered all the questions fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz asked Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he defeated the Pole 6-3, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals. There will be a blockbuster showdown in the last four, with Djokovic set to face former World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev for a place in the final.
“It was a challenging match as it always is against Hubert. One of the best guys on the Tour, definitely,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “Fantastic personality. Very lovable guy, a great relationship with everyone. He’s always respectful. I wish him all the best for the rest of the season.”
Hurkacz threw everything in his deep arsenal at Djokovic on centre court. From winning a point after hitting a tweener in the early moments of the match to putting pressure on the Serbian by moving forward, the Pole tried to take the 35-year-old out of his comfort zone.
It was to no avail. Djokovic dominated on serve — he did not face a break point — and chipped away to earn opportunities until he broke through. The top seed converted two of his eight opportunities to advance after one hour and 21 minutes and take a 5-0 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.
Hurkacz was closest to breaking through at 5-4 in the second set, when he took a 0/30 advantage. But after Djokovic served his way out of trouble, he seized the match in the next game.
The Pole fended off the first four break points he faced in the game, but Djokovic unleashed a trademark backhand down the line to claim his fifth chance, before successfully serving for his place in the semi-finals.
“I think he’s got one of the best serves in the game, so in the second set until that 11th game in the second set, I didn’t really have too many chances against his serve,” Djokovic said. “He was winning his service games comfortably. Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on my serve throughout the second set and held my serve.
“Love-30 at 5-4 for him, found a couple of good serves, good plays. Really one or two points can always decide [the winner] of matches like this. There’s not much that is separating both players. But I’m really, really glad with the way I played under pressure.”
Djokovic’s Best Starts To A Season
Djokovic, who before arriving in Dubai had not competed since lifting his 10th Australian Open trophy, is now 15-0 on the season, marking his fourth-best winning streak to start a season.
In the first round, he needed a final-set tie-break to claw past Tomas Machac. Now Djokovic is two wins from capturing his sixth title in Dubai and his 94th tour-level crown overall. That would tie him with Ivan Lendl for the third-most titles in the Open Era.
Djokovic will be fully focused on the match in front of him though. He will face Medvedev, who ousted eighth seed Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2 in the last match of the day. The third seed won the final 21 points of the match to send a message to his next opponent.
“To win 21 points in a row, I don’t know if that’s my personal record on the ATP Tour,” Medvedev said. “I managed to hit some lines, I managed to play good. Borna was missing a little bit, but generally happy with my level, I’m happy with the ending of the match for sure.”
Medvedev will try to overcome a 4-9 ATP Head2Head deficit against Djokovic, who is not the only one bringing good form into the match. The 27-year-old has won back-to-back titles in Rotterdam and Doha, and is trying for a third in Dubai. He is on a 12-match winning streak and has not dropped a set this week.
“I’m playing good right now,” Medvedev said. “But when you play Novak, Novak is always the favourite.”