Novak Djokovic extended his remarkable start to the season by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title for a fifth time on Saturday night.
Top seed Djokovic has won all 18 matches he has played this year, a run that has seen him lead Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup, successfully defend his Australian Open title, and now lift the trophy in Dubai. Including the end to last season, Djokovic is actually unbeaten in his past 21 matches.
“I'm trying to embrace the moment and appreciate where I am,” Djokovic, 32, said during the post-match press conference while accompanied by the large, silver dhow trophy.
“I think this has been one of the best starts of all seasons I had in my career. I feel great on the court. I'm just grateful that I'm playing well, feeling well. I've won many matches now in a row. I'll try to keep that run going.”
Saturday’s final not only pitted the top two seeds against each other, but the tournament’s best server against the best returner. Something had to give and based on the early exchanges, it looked as though the imperious serve of Tsitsipas, who had won 41 of 43 service games prior to the final, would hold the Greek in good stead.
While he was holding with relative ease, Djokovic was placed under greater pressure during the opening five games as the world No 1 was forced to save break point. It proved a pivotal moment as three games later, Tsitsipas produced a wayward service game and in typically ruthless fashion, Djokovic pounced on his first opportunity before serving out the set.
“Again I think it was a little bit of a slow start from me,” said Djokovic, who was sluggish out of the blocks in his semi-final against Gael Monfils on Friday when he lost the first set 6-2 and saved three match points in the second set tiebreak before fighting back to claim victory.
“I was fortunate to hold my service games. He was very close to breaking my serve during the first three service games I had in the first set.
“Probably the decisive break of serve at 4-3 that allowed me to serve for the set, I felt mentally that I started having a little bit more of an advantage. You could sense that I got the momentum and I didn't want to lose it.”
The second set started with both players holding firm, but once again a poor service game from Tsitsipas handed Djokovic a 3-2 lead to put the Serb in control. However, Tsitsipas kept himself in the fight with an immediate break back, although parity only lasted another two games as Djokovic again broke at the vital moment to claim a 5-4 lead.
All he needed was to serve out the match and championship, which he did to love to inflict a second Dubai final defeat on Tsitsipas in as many years following the Greek’s loss to Roger Federer in the 2019 title match.
Given his unstoppable start to 2020, Djokovic joked during his on-court interview that he was targeting an unbeaten season, and he reiterated during the press conference that he was indeed joking.
“No, no,” he said when asked if a flawless year was a realistic target. “It's just way too early to speak about how long this run might go.
“I try not to think about predictions. I try to focus on what I need to do with myself and my team in order to thrive every day, in order to try to play as best as I can every single match. That's the main focus.”
For Tsitsipas, another positive week in Dubai ultimately ended in agonising style, falling short once again in the final to the tournament top seed, but the Greek world No 6 was magnanimous in defeat.
“For sure I'm proud of myself because I showed good discipline and I managed to play the same this year,” Tsitsipas, 21, said. “But it's kind of disappointing trying so hard and not really getting the final result that you want. For sure I would love to see myself holding that trophy. Of course, he gave more than me and he deserves it.”