Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Aslan Karatsev in action against Mackenzie McDonald in the first round of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Dubai, UAE – February 22 2022: Aslan Karatsev’s defence of his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title ended in frustration on Tuesday when he was defeated 7-5 6-3 by Mackenzie McDonald. His opponent in the 2021 final, Lloyd Harris, was also beaten as he went down 6-3 6-3 to Alex Molcan in just 65 minutes.
McDonald broke into the top 50 and achieved a career-high number 49 this month after undergoing right hamstring surgery in 2019 and falling outside the top 250 in 2020, his recovery and climb up the rankings earning him the ATP Comeback Player of the Year award in 2021. That alone would have made McDonald an opponent to be wary of, and Karatsev was aware of the challenge he faced after he struggled against him at the recent Australian Open.
Seventh seeded Karatsev, who defeated Andy Murray in last month’s Sydney final, failed to capitalise on his chances in a long and dramatic sixth game of the match, which went to deuce seven times and in which Karatsev held five break points for a 4-2 lead before McDonald held with his fourth game point.
Games continued to go with serve until 5-5, when McDonald broke for 6-5 and then not only served out for the set but won a total of seven straight games as he swept to a 4-0 lead in the second set. Karatsev then staged an ambitious recovery bid, winning the next three games and holding a break point for 4-4. McDonald though held on to lead 5-3 and then broke his frustrated opponent once more to claim the match.
Jannik Sinner came close to following Karatsev to the exit as he faced down three match points before emerging with a 4-6 7-6 6-3 over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a draining two hours 31 minutes.
At the age of 20, in November Sinner became the youngest Italian to crack the top 10 in the ATP Rankings, he is the youngest 5-time ATP Tour champion at age 20 since Novak Djokovic, and in reaching the French Open quarter-finals in 2020 at the age of 19 he was the youngest player to reach that stage since Djokovic in 2006.
But still he struggled to overcome Davidovich Fokina, who broke in the final game of the first set and then held a 6-3 lead in the second set tiebreak before Sinner edged it 8-6. Then just one break of serve separated them in the final set.
“We have once again enjoyed great drama at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Many matches are so closely fought and we have witnessed some outstanding battles which have swung first with one player and then the other. We can anticipate more such matches in the days ahead and look forward to finding who will progress to the final.”
Karen Khachanov was another who became embroiled in a fight to survive as he needed two hours 46 minutes to overcome Alex de Minaur 6-3 6-7 7-5. Khachanov claimed the first set and came within two points of victory in the second as he led 6-5, but de Minaur took the set to a tiebreak which he swept 7-1. Khachanov once again led 6-5 in the final set and this time he broke serve to close out the contest on his third match point.
“It was always going to be a huge challenge for Aslan Karatsev to successfully defend his title here, and despite his best efforts he was unable to overcome a difficult and determined opponent,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Competition among the players is fierce and today has certainly proved that every point has to be fought very hard for, and that provides great entertainment for everyone.
“With so many great battles yet to come this week, we again urge tennis fans wishing to see some of the world’s top stars in action to purchase their tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”
Tickets can be purchased through the Box Office at the stadium.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which continues until 26th February, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.