Djokovic: "I Started The Season In The Best Possible Way"
World No. 1 chases fifth Dubai crown
The 32-year-old will be competing on the ATP Tour for the first time since claiming a record-extending eighth title at the Australian Open last month. He also led Team Serbia to victory at the inaugural ATP Cup in January.
“I missed it. I haven’t played here for [four] years and I look forward to getting out on the court,” said Djokovic. “I started off the season in the best possible way in Australia and I am hoping I can continue that streak this week in Dubai.”
When first-round opponent Malek Jaziri attended this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships draw, the wild card was hoping for a low-key start to an event where he has faced Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov in the early stages during four of his six-main draw appearances.
"Hopefully this year the draw will be good for me,” said Jaziri on Saturday. “Usually I play a seeded [player] always here. I've played Roger, I've played Novak, I've played Andy. I played Grigor as well two years ago."
It was not only Jaziri and fellow draw attendees Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev who saw the funny side of the Tunisian’s latest unlucky draw experience at the ATP 500 event. Djokovic also shared his thoughts on the unlikely sequence of events, as he looks to capture his first title in Dubai since 2013.
“We get along very well. He is a super nice guy and we train a lot,” said Djokovic. “It is unfortunate. It is very odd that that happened, in terms of the draw, but he is a very talented player and he is very experienced as well. He has played many years on the Tour.”
Djokovic’s last victory in Dubai came against Jaziri en route to the quarter-finals in 2016, but the World No. 1 is well aware of the threat the 36-year-old poses in high-profile matches.
In Jaziri’s last appearance in Dubai two years ago, the Tunisian upset Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas to make it through to his maiden ATP 500 semi-final. In the same year, Jaziri also beat Alexander Zverev at ATP 500-level in Beijing.
“He upset Zverev [two years ago] in China, so he doesn’t feel much pressure playing on the centre courts of the big tournaments,” said Djokovic. “I have got to approach that very seriously and try to bring my best game, because my first match after several weeks of a break is tricky. You have to approach it seriously."