Dubai, March 1 (IANS) World No. 1 Novak Djokovic battled past Tomas Machac in a thrilling first-round match at the Dubai Tennis Championships to continue his unbeaten run in the 2023 season.
The Serbian held off a ferocious challenge from Czech player for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(1) win on Tuesday. He will next face the World No. 39 Dutch Tallon Griekspoor.
Machac showcased some top-class shotmaking, particularly off the backhand wing, to roar back into contention after a fast start from Djokovic at the ATP 500. The World No. 1 was at times visibly frustrated at struggling to find his best level, but composed himself in trademark fashion in the deciding-set tie-break to ward off the upset and take a hard-earned two-hour and 28-minute victory.
Having finished his 2022 season by going unbeaten at the ATP Finals, Djokovic’s current winning streak now stands at 18.
Djokovic’s thrilling win came a day after he overtook Stefanie Graf’s record for most weeks by a men’s or women’s tennis player as World No. 1. A small presentation noting the 35-year-old’s achievement was held post-match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, according to ATP Tour website.
“It is very special. As a young boy growing up in Serbia, I dreamt of two things – winning Wimbledon and being No. 1 in the world. I’ve been blessed to achieve both of my childhood dreams, several times, and I guess when that happened, I had to set new goals, new ambitions,” Djokovic said.
“I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to play at this level after many years. Obviously, It’s a team effort, it’s a family effort, regardless of the fact that this is an individual sport… A lot of hours go into preparing me to be able to perform… I’m flattered and thrilled to be amongst the biggest names this sport has ever had, Steffi Graf being one of them.”
The 22-time Grand Slam winner was making his first appearance since winning the Australian Open and is chasing his sixth title in Dubai, where he triumphed in 2009-2011, 2013 and 2020.