Novak Djokovic says World Tennis League is 'as good as it gets'

Serbian star tastes victory against Sebastian Ofner in Dubai

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Novak Djokovic put on a show for the crowd at Dubai’s Coca Cola Arena on Friday, but his three-set victory over last-minute substitute Sebastian Ofner was not enough to secure his Falcons team a spot in the World Tennis League final on Saturday.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion pulled out ahead of his clash with Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday but was able to return to action one last time before exiting the event. Djokovic assured he is feeling fit adding, “Knock on wood, I’m feeling good.”

“It’s been probably the most fun three, four days in a row that I’ve had. I’ve had a long career but this is as good as it gets,” the former world No 1 said in a press conference on Friday.

“Playing some good tennis against the best players in the world and having fun, having the best players in the men’s and women’s side courtside, sharing the bench with them, talking trash all the time, it’s just so much fun.”

The Iga Swiatek-led Kites and Alexander Zverev-led Hawks booked their places in the WTL final thanks to impressive victories on Friday.

Hawks v Eagles

Nick Kyrgios and Bianca Andreescu gave the Eagles an early lead with a 6-4, 4-6, 10-7 mixed doubles triumph over Dominic Thiem and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Team Hawks.

In women’s singles, Elena Rybakina was in fierce form, the Wimbledon champion easing past world No 4 Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-1 to get the Hawks back on track.

A straight-sets win for Zverev over retiring Italian Andreas Seppi secured victory for the Hawks.

Kites v Falcons

In the second match-up of the day, Indian icon Sania Mirza and Danish world No 11 Holger Rune claimed a three-set victory over Paula Badosa and Grigor Dimitrov to give the Kites a 12-8 advantage over the Falcons.

Swiatek was in no-nonsense mode as she sprinted to a 6-1, 6-3 success over familiar foe, world No 5 Aryna Sabalenka to cement the Kites’ lead.

The pair had squared off five times on tour in 2022, with Swiatek getting the upper hand in four of them before Sabalenka snatched their most recent meeting at the WTA Finals last month in Fort Worth, Texas.

Djokovic salvaged a win for the Falcons in the closing men’s singles but his team still finished bottom of the table, in fourth place with a tally of 84 points, 29 adrift of table-toppers Team Kites.

Ofner was not part of the Kites roster earlier in the week but filled in for Felix Auger-Aliassime, who was initially scheduled to face Djokovic.

WTL table ahead of Saturday’s final

Kites - 113 points

Hawks - 106

Eagles - 89

Falcons - 84

Updated: December 24, 2022, 4:37 AM