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Djokovic advances, Rublev saves five match points in Dubai win

TENNIS: JAN 03 - Adelaide International

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 03: Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a backhand during the Adelaide International tennis match between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Constant Lestienne of France at Memorial Drive on January 03, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Top-ranked Novak Djokovic eased into the quarterfinals at the Dubai Championships by beating Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3.

Djokovic extended his winning streak to 19 matches in tidy fashion a day after being pushed to a third-set tiebreaker by 130th-ranked Tomas Machac.

“Yesterday, I really had to work hard to get a win. Tonight... I was sharp,” Djokovic said.

The 35-year-old Serb broke the 39th-ranked Griekspoor four times to remain unbeaten this season. It was Djokovic’s second match since winning his 10th Australian Open title.

The five-time Dubai champion had taken a few weeks off after overcoming a hamstring problem in Australia to win his record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam singles title.

Djokovic called his 26-year-old Dutch opponent “one of the most improved players” on the tour.

“The new generations are coming, but I’m not afraid,” a smiling Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

Djokovic will next face Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Pavel Kotov 7-5, 6-1.

Also Wednesday, defending champion Andrey Rublev produced a 1-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) comeback win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The Russian saved five match points in the second-set tiebreaker. He won seven straight points after going down 1-6.

“In my head ... the match was done,” the second-seeded Rublev said at a press conference.

It’s the third time this season he has saved match points en route to victory.

“I have no words. These matches, when it’s over and somehow you win them it’s always special,” he said.

Davidovich Fokina fell behind 1-6 in the third-set tiebreaker and saved two match points before Rublev finished him off on the third try.

Rublev will play Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarterfinals.

The third-seeded Daniil Medvedev used an underarm serve to close out his 6-4, 6-2 victory over Alexander Bublik, who frequently uses the tactic including earlier in the match. The 27-year-old Russian will next play the 20th-ranked Borna Coric.

Lorenzo Sonego upset fourth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (4), 6-4 and will face Alexander Zverev in the final eight. Zverev beat qualifier Christopher O’Connell 7-5, 6-4.