Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Novak Djokovic makes his 2022 ATP Tour debut in the first round of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Dubai, UAE – February 21 2022: World number one Novak Djokovic and former champion Andy Murray reached the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in contrasting styles on Monday
Djokovic, playing his first match of the season, always looked comfortable against tournament wild card Lorenzo Musetti and won 6-3 6-3. But Murray, who will be seeking his 700th career win in the second round, needed just nine minutes under three hours to squeeze past qualifier Christopher O’Connell 6-7 6-3 7-5.
Although Musetti will not turn 20 until next month, he claimed one of the biggest wins of his career in his last tournament against world number 11 Hubert Hurkacz. But although he showed plenty of aggression and skill against Djokovic, it was not enough to unsettle an opponent seeking his sixth title in Dubai.
“I think Dubai is a perfect place for me to start a season because of the support and the fans that showed up tonight and really cheered me on the way they did,” said Djokovic. “Big Serbian community as well. Very nice to see Serbian flags around. I felt there was an international crowd supporting me as well, which was very nice. They exceeded my best expectations, so to say, in terms of the atmosphere.
“It’s definitely one of the best tournaments in the world, actually the best tournament in the world in category 500 that we have on ATP Tour. Many years in a row this tournament has been winning awards for a reason.”
O’Connell broke Murray to lead the first set 5-4, and although Murray immediately broke back to level at 5-5 it was O’Connell who went on to claim the tiebreak. Murray was rarely threatened in the second set, breaking in the first and last games to take the match to a decider.
That was a tense affair during which each player produced some magnificent tennis. Both struggled on serve at times, with O’Connell saving a break point to hold for 2-2 but then holding four break points to take a 5-4 lead and serve for the match. Murray dug deep to overcome that challenge and then finally earned the only break of the set at 6-5 to end the battle.
“I found it really difficult tonight. Mentally found it a very tough match,” Murray admitted. “Obviously had a difficult loss last week (when he lost 6-0 6-1 against Roberto Bautista Agut) so I think naturally you’re probably going to be doubting yourself a little bit. Yeah, not that comfortable with your game. That certainly was the case for me this evening.
“I did a great job to win that match. It would have been very easy for me to have lost that tonight. Yeah, came out with a great point at the end to turn the match. Also, to be fair, when I was down in the third set, as well, some break points, I came up with some good stuff as well.
“The positives are that physically I did well, I fought right the way through till the end. (But) yeah, certainly things I need to work on in terms of my game and also just trying to make it a little bit easier on myself by not getting frustrated from early on in the match.”
Earlier, Filip Krajinovic struggled to overcome a gallant Malek Jaziri in another thrilling first round battle, edging his way to a 6-7 6-2 6-4 victory in a highly entertaining two hours 18 minutes.
Jaziri remained strongly in contention throughout, but when leading 4-3 in the final set he called for treatment after appearing to suffer with a problem with his right hand. At that stage Krajinovic was under severe pressure at deuce on his serve, but when play resumed he held for 4-4 and then won a decisive break to lead 5-4 before serving out the match.
Qualifier Jiri Vesely earned a surprise 6-4 7-6 victory over Marin Cilic to also reach the second round. Cilic had recently claimed an impressive win over world number six Andrey Rublev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open, while Vesely had failed to win a main draw match in his three previous visits to Dubai. Another qualifier reached the second round as Taro Daniel defeated David Goffin 6-3 7-6.
“Our 30th year of hosting the ATP Tour could not have got off to a more exciting start,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Both Andy Murray and Filip Krajinovic had to work very hard for their victories, and Novak Djokovic was in excellent form against his enterprising opponent. We can now look forward to many more thrilling battles throughout the week.”
“The outstanding quality of the field competing for the trophy this week is underlined by the fact that two of the seeds come into Dubai having just won tournaments, with 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut capturing his 10th career ATP Tour title in Doha on Saturday and Andrey Rublev yesterday winning his ninth career ATP Tour title in Marseille,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.
“With so many top stars bidding for the title this week demand for tickets is strong, and we urge anyone planning to attend to purchase their tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”
Tickets can be purchased through the official tournament website and Platinum list, or simply drop by 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.