Novak Djokovic’s second-round opponent in Dubai is Karen Khachanov, the world’s number 26, who said on Tuesday that he respected the Serb’s firm stance against taking the Covid-19 vaccination. Khachanov came through a two-hour 46-minute duel with Australian Alex de Minaur, 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 7-5, to book a last-16 encounter with the top seeded Djokovic. As an unvaccinated individual, Djokovic will struggle to travel to many countries this season and has already said he is currently banned from entering the United States, which will host two Masters 1000 tournaments next month in Indian Wells and Miami.
Andy Murray said on Monday that he disagreed with Djokovic’s stance against vaccination, but believed that “it would be better for tennis if he played all the major events”.
“I definitely agree with Andy. It’s a very delicate situation where it’s basically his (Djokovic’s) decision; he has to stand behind his decisions and I respect that very much,” Khachanov told AFP on Tuesday.
“Of course it would certainly be better if he can play a normal season and go everywhere, but I think he has his team around him, he has his own decisions and will stick to them.
“But if we speak in general, obviously don’t see him as number 1 in the world in many tournaments, it will be difficult for him to stay there and also find the rhythm. So let’s see what happens.”
Djokovic made his 2022 season debut on Monday, beating Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 in what was his first game since he was deported from Australia last month.
The world No. 1 said he has been positively received by the players in the Dubai dressing room this week.
“It’s great to see him here, he played a great game,” said Poland’s No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz after his 6-3, 6-1 first-round victory over Alexander Bublik on Tuesday.
“I’m very happy for him after a tough few weeks for him, especially at the beginning of the year.”
Khachanov, who is eyeing a return to the world top 10 for the first time since October 2019, has a 1-4 personal best against Djokovic, whose only defeat to the Russian came in the Paris Masters final three-and-a-half years. past.
“When you play these kind of tournaments and you want to succeed and go deep, you have to expect to have a tough draw, you have difficult matches,” Khachanov said.
“For him (Djokovic) it’s only his first tournament, he played really great yesterday for his start of the season. But I’ll be there, I’ll try to fight, I’ll try to do my game and let’s see how hard it is will be.”
Last year’s finalists in Dubai, champion Aslan Karatsev and runner-up Lloyd Harris, had to leave in the opening round on Tuesday.
Karatzev lost 7-5, 6-3 to US number 61 Mackenzie McDonald. Harris fell to the Slovakian lucky guy Alex Molcan 6-3, 6-3.
Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner saved three match points in the second set tiebreak en route to a 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 victory over Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The 20-year-old’s reward is a last-16 showdown with Murray.
Sinner played his first game since his Australian Open quarterfinals. An attack of Covid-19 forced him to withdraw from Rotterdam two weeks ago. The Italian phenom recently parted ways with his coaching team, led by Riccardo Piatti, and this week kicked off his new partnership with Simone Vagnozzi in Dubai.
Topics mentioned in this article