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Novak Djokovic holds on in Dubai, extends winning streak to 18

2023 Australian Open - Day 4

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand in their round two singles match against Enzo Couacauo of France during day four of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 19, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Top-ranked Novak Djokovic held on to beat Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1) at the Dubai Championships in his first match since winning his 10th Australian Open title.

Djokovic’s first-round victory came a day after the 35-year-old Serb broke the record for the most time spent at No. 1 in the professional tennis rankings by a man or woman.

Djokovic was a bit rusty on his return from a few weeks off after overcoming a hamstring problem in Australia to win his record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam singles title. He led 4-1 in the third set Tuesday before the 130th-ranked Machac forced a tiebreaker.

“He was giving me all kinds of trouble, but I guess when it mattered I found another gear,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I haven’t played much tennis (recently), so I’m hoping as the tournament progresses I can raise the level.”

Djokovic, who next faces Tallon Griekspoor, is 13-0 this season and extended his overall winning streak to 18 matches.

A presentation was held after Tuesday’s match to recognize Djokovic’s 378th week in the ATP’s top spot, surpassing Steffi Graf’s 377 leading the WTA.

“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,” he said.

Also Tuesday, third-seeded Daniil Medvedev beat Matteo Arnaldi 6-4, 6-2 to extend his winning streak to 10 matches.

Fourth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Maxime Cressy 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 and Botic van de Zandschulp beat sixth-seeded Karen Khachanov 7-5, 6-2.