Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Top seed Novak Djokovic fought off three match points before overcoming third seed Gael Monfils 2-6 7-6 (8) 6-1 to reach the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and he will now meet second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who ended the run of British No.1 Daniel Evans 6-2 6-3.
Four-time champion Djokovic is now on a 20-match winning streak dating back to last year at the Davis Cup Finals, and he has now beaten Monfils 17 straight times. But his survival hung in the balance, after losing the opening set he failed to convert two set points at 5-4 and another three at 6-5 in the second set, before finding himself 6-3 down in the tie-break.
However, World No.1 Djokovic edged his way out of that crisis and levelled the match on his eighth set point, dominating the third as Monfils salvaged just seven points in the set. The third seeded Frenchman took two tumbles late in the match and was unable to maintain his challenge to deny Djokovic victory after an absorbing two hours 35-minutes.
“He was getting everything back in the court,” reflected Djokovic. “It was tough. It was just one of those matches where you have to hang in. I knew if I managed somehow to get back in the second set, hold my serve, I’ll get chances. That’s what happened. From this perspective it was better for me to actually win in tiebreak because it got him obviously more tired. I should have I guess won the set 5-4, 6-5. Many missed opportunities.
“But that kind of turned around from 3-6 in the tiebreak. From that moment onwards I felt I was going through the ball better. Obviously third set it’s hard to measure it because obviously he was injured from third game of the third set and it wasn’t even close to what he played in the first two hours.”
The 17-time Grand Slam champion has now saved match points en route to comeback victories 15 times in his trophy-laden career.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 28, 2020
“Well, I don’t want for it to sound so drastic. In a way, if I can make a comparison, it’s like that kind of a feeling for an athlete, in our sport when he’s facing a match point in a big match, it’s like being on the edge of a cliff,” explained the 32-year-old. “You know there is no way back so you have to jump over and try to find a way to survive I guess and pray for the best and believe that you can make it, that there is something that is going to help you.
“That’s one of the things that I feel at the moment. Okay, one point away, one shot away. There is no going back. This is it. I accept the situation and try to make the most out of it. It’s all or nothing. It’s a matter of life or death at that point.”
Djokovic and world No.6 Tsitsipas will enter Centre Court on Saturday locked at 2-2 in their head-to-head.
“He’s one of the leaders of the new generation. He’s now established Top-5, Top-10 player of the world. He is a hard worker, dedicated, very charismatic guy, nice guy. He has a lot of talent, a lot of passion for the sport, for the game,” added top seed Djokovic, praising his upcoming opponent.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 28, 2020
“I think he’s fantastic for our sport, not just the way he plays but his charisma, his character, the way he behaves. He’s a really nice guy to have for tennis.
“It’s anybody’s game really. Finals, he’s won eight matches in a row now from last week in France winning title, now playing more or less every single day, which is quite impressive. It’s not easy.”
Tsitsipas, who last week successfully defended a title for the first time in his career in Marseille and is into his second consecutive final in Dubai, has surrendered just one set on his way to the final. He was rarely placed under pressure by world No.37 Evans and was very satisfied with the way he had played.
“I played really well, both my forehand and backhand side,” said 21-year-old Tsitsipas. “Obviously I was dominating a lot from my forehand side. I was constructing and building the point from the forehand side. It helped tremendously get, like, the lead and the upper hand, kind of being more in charge. I think that was something that helped me get those breakpoints when I had to.
“My service games were close to excellent. I was just playing with a clear head and not thinking of too much, staying in the moment, trying to process of what potentially he’s going to use on the court. Yeah, I didn’t feel it was a threat. I had time, I had space. It was just a matter of time for me to take the lead and get up in the score.”
The 2019 finalist is aware Saturday’s final against the world No.1 is currently the ultimate challenge in the sport.
“He’s in really good form and shape. He’s been playing great tennis. Everybody has seen what he did at Australian Open,” stated Tsitsipas.
“For sure I’m going to have to bring the best out of my game and reduce my mistakes, stay aggressive like today I would say. It’s going to take something extra for me to beat him tomorrow.”
“We could not have asked for a more exciting semi-final as the one we saw between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Monfils came tantalisingly close to one of the most outstanding wins of his long and successful career, and we wish him well during the rest of the season.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “So many matches this week have been of the highest quality, and Gael Monfils can be proud of how well he challenged the world No.1. The other semi-final also provided great entertainment as Stefanos Tsitsipas had to fight hard to overcome a determined Daniel Evans.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which 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, concludes on 29th February.