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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, March 3, 2023


Daniil Medvedev shoved Novak Djokovic right out of Dubai 6-4, 6-4 dealing the world No. 1 his first loss of the season while surging into his first Dubai final.

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder for the pre-match photo at net, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev shared some friendly words before the world No. 1 patted his opponent on the back wishing him luck.

Delivering friendly fire and strong serving, Medvedev shoved Djokovic right out of Dubai 6-4, 6-4 dealing the top seed his first loss of the season while surging into his first Dubai final.

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The third-seeded Medvedev snapped Djokovic's 20-match winning streak while stretching his own win streak to 13 matches. Djokovic suffered his first loss since a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 defeat to Holger Rune in the Rolex Paris Masters final on November 6, 2022.

Tennis Express

It's the third straight final for Medvedev, who rallied past Jannik Sinner 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 to win Rotterdam indoors last month then swept former No. 1 Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4 for his 17th career title outdoors in Doha last week.

This is Medvedev's first victory over Djokovic since he denied the Wimbledon champion his dream of achieving the calendar year Grand Slam with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the 2021 US Open final.

On a steamy semifinal night that saw streaks collide in sweaty exchanges, Medvedev soaked up Djokovic's best shots repeatedly forcing the Serbian to play closer to the edge and ultimately drawing 37 unforced errors from the typically prcise world No. 1. Facing one of the best hard-court movers in tennis history, the 6'6" Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors in 20 games tonight.

"When you play against Novak you just have to play your best. Kind of hope he doesn't play his best on this day because when he plays his best, I mean he has 22 Grand Slams so even if you play your best it's gonna be tough and not sure you win," Medvedev said. "That's how tennis is sometimes. You lose matches because you didn't play your best, that's what happened a little bit.

"I'm happy I managed to play higher level than him today. Second set I didn't face one break point but there were so many 30-all, deuce, I managed to keep composed and really happy to be in the final tomorrow."

Playing for a third straight title tomorrow after posting 13 wins in 18 days, how much life will Medvedev have in his legs and his lungs?

"I was feeling great before this match, I'm feeling a little bit worse right now," Medvedev said. "Every time I play with Novak, physically, it's tough. We have a lot of rallies.

It was for whatever reason more humid today so I saw that he was not happy sweating. I was not happy sweating so much. We always have tough battles and I'm looking forward to the next one."

The final will be a Russian reunion between reigning champion Andrey Rublev and first-time finalist Medvedev.

I'm playing good right now and that's most important. Andrey was not playing that good before this week. He faced five match points in the second round but that's how tennis is. He has the confidence from this match and now I saw his matches he's playing pretty good. So I need to be at my best tomorrow. I know that Andrey can play amazing tennis. he beat me last two times, tough battles, so I'm looking for a great fight tomorrow. All good things come to this who wait.

Defending Dubai champion Andrey Rublev fused patience and power defeating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(9) to reach his second straight Dubai final with his first win over the German in six Tour-level meetings.

The second-seeded Rublev is through to his 18th career final (12-5 finals record) as he aims to become the first man since Roger Federer in 2015 to successfully defend Dubai and join Djokovic and Federer as the third repeat champion at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

This rivalry between childhood friends was so lopsided Zverev had swept all 11 prior sets between the pair.

Today, Rublev broke in the opening game to break through with his first win against the Olympic gold-medal champion.

Winning the coin toss, Rublev elected to receive, which proved to be the right choice.

In a topsy-turvy opening game that clocked in at just under 20 minutes, Rublev broke Zverev’s serve at the sixth attempt. The hard-hitting Rublev broke twice more in four Zverev service games in the opening set.

Conversely, the second set was deadlocked on serve until the tiebreak, when resilient Rublev converted his fifth match point to seal his first ATP Tour win over his buddy.

“I was thinking it was going to be a third set, and maybe that helped me,” said Rublev. “It was a super intense tiebreak. We are really good friends; we’ve known each other since we were 10 or 11 years-old in the juniors. He’s like an older brother to me, and he’s beaten me in our previous matches, so I knew I had nothing to lose.”

An elated Rublev thanked fans for inspiring his second straight trip to the final.

“It’s crazy, I have no words for the spectators and supporters here," Rublev said. "All the players are grateful—thank you so much."

Deploying variety, Djokovic delivered a drop shot winner, ace and sweet serve-and-volley to open with a love hold.

Whipping the wide serve with precision, Djokovic pumped three aces stamping successive shutout holds at the start.

Putting more returns back in play, Medvedev rallied from love-30 down to gain break point in the fifth game. Djokovic dabbed a clever dropper to save it.

Quick off the mark, Medvedev ran down another drop shot and slammed a high volley for a second break point. In the ensuing backhand-to-backhand exchange, the 2021 US Open champion drew a netted slice backhand drawing first-break blood for 3-2.

The Doha champion showed his skill with the drop shot as he backed up the break in the sixth game.

The deep court positioning Medvedev applied enticed the top seed to attack more. Djokovic badly bungled a smash and missed on a serve-and-volley attempt as Medvedev scored his second straight break to go up 5-2 leaving the Serbian superstar looking out of sync.

Serving for the set, Medvedev stumbled as Djokovic broke for the first time on a backhand error.

When Medvedev served for the set again at 5-4, Djokovic pressured him using the drop shot to open a 15-30 lead. Medvedev tamed trouble driving a diagonal forehand winner to take the 39-minute set.

"Daniil is one of the best players in the world the last five years," Djokovic said. "Grand Slam winner. Former No. 1 in the world. Not much to talk about. His quality is as tough as it gets when you are supposed to face someone on the hard court particularly."

The world No. 7 was one set from his first win over the world No. 1 since he denied Djokovic's dream of the calendar slam with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 triumph in the 2021 US Open final.

The quiet confidence and unerring shotmaking Medvedev exuded compelled the 10-time Australian Open champion to go for more. As Djokovic flirted with the lines with greater frequency, the unforced errors escalated.

Digging in well behind the baseline, Medvedev spit back everything the Serbian threw at him coaxing another error to start the second set with his third break of the evening.

Slashing his sixth ace, Medvedev sealed a love hold to confirm the break for a one-set, 2-0 advantage.

A brief tiff at the start of the sixth game saw Medvedev hit with a foot fault call, but he successfully argued the call came before he actually struck his serve. The chair umpire agreed awarding the Rotterdam champion a first serve, which prompted Djokovic to protest briefly.

Despite the delay over the rule clarification, Medvedev stood strong navigating a challenging hold that saw him run down a dropper and a lob for 4-2. Medvedev banged his eighth ace to extend his lead to 5-3.

Serving for his third straight final, Medvedev snapped a smash and drew a netted slice for 30-15. Turning on a body serve, Djokovic flicked a forehand return winner down the line to even the game.

Ratcheting up the drama, Djokovic carved a terrific drop shot. Bursting from behind the baseline, Medvedev not only caught up to it, he scraped a reply that kissed the tape and dribbled over.

Racing up quickly to a net-cord shot that settled mid-court, Medvedev crushed a crosscourt forehand to wrap a 6-4, 6-4 sweep committing just 12 errors in those 20 games.

Now, Medvedev will try to defuse power-playing buddy Rublev. Medvedev has won four of six meetings vs.  sometime Davis Cup teammate, but Rublev has prevailed in their last two meetings, including a 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(7) win at the ATP Finals Turin last November.

"I'm playing good right now and that's most important," Medvedev said. "Andrey was not playing that good before this week. He faced five match points in the second round, but that's how tennis is. He has the confidence from this match and now I saw his matches he's playing pretty good.

"So I need to be at my best tomorrow. I know that Andrey can play amazing tennis. He beat me last two times, tough battles, so I'm looking for a great fight tomorrow."


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