DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — After saving match points to reach the final, top-ranked Novak Djokovic was scarcely troubled as he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 Saturday to win the Dubai Championships for the fifth time.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion maintained his unbeaten start to the year, having won the inaugural ATP Cup with Serbia and clinching a record-extending eighth Australian Open title.
Djokovic’s 79th career title moves him five behind Rafael Nadal, who was playing in the Mexican Open final in Acapulco against American Taylor Fritz.
But Djokovic almost went out on Friday. He was pushed hard by Gaël Monfils in the semifinals, saving three match points before improving to 17-0 against the hard-hitting but inconsistent French veteran.
This time, Djokovic was mostly in control.
Although he dropped his serve once, he converted all three break points against the 21-year-old Greek to move 3-2 ahead in their career meetings.
“I’m trying to embrace the moment and appreciate where I am,” the 32-year-old Djokovic said. “This has been one of the best starts of all the seasons I had in my career. I feel great on the court. I’ve been playing great tennis on the hard courts. That is my most successful and preferred surface.”
Only 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, who is recovering from a knee operation, has beaten Djokovic in the Dubai final — in 2015.
Djokovic has an 18th major in his sights at the French Open later this year, and his emphatic start to 2020 marks him out as a serious challenger to Nadal at Roland Garros.
“I’m just grateful that I’m playing well, feeling well,” Djokovic said. “I try not to think about predictions.”
The second-seeded Tsitsipas lost in last year’s final to Federer.
Here he missed out on a second straight title — and sixth of his career — after clinching the Open 13 in Marseille last weekend without dropping a set.
“It’s disappointing trying so hard and not really getting the final result that you want,” the sixth-ranked Tsitsipas said. “For sure, I would love to see myself holding that trophy.”
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