Djokovic Looks To Ride Momentum Into Doha
Novak Djokovic played sensational tennis at the end of the 2018 season. In his final five tournaments of the year, Djokovic won the Western & Southern Open, the US Open and the Rolex Shanghai Masters before finishing runner-up at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. Now back at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, the Serbian will look to use that momentum to get off to a fast start in 2019.
Djokovic opens his season at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, where he will face Damir Dzumhur in the first round. In the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting just two months ago in Paris, Djokovic led 6-1, 2-1 before three-time ATP Tour champion Dzumhur was forced to retire.
The 31-year-old Djokovic will try to extend his 10-match winning streak in Doha, as the 72-time tour-level titlist has triumphed at the season-opening event in his past two appearances (2016-17). If he gets by Dzumhur, the top seed will face Hungarian Marton Fucsovics or Marius Copil in the second round. Fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who could face Djokovic in the quarter-finals, won his first two tour-level titles in 2018, and both of them came at ATP Tour 500 events.
Watch Highlights Of Djokovic's 2017 Triumph In Doha:
And while everyone will want to see Djokovic’s form, plenty of fans will also be glued to a tantalising first-round encounter, on the same half of the draw, between Paris titlist Karen Khachanov and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.
Khachanov finished 2018 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour, storming to his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 title in France, playing impressive tennis to beat Djokovic in the final. The Russian, the third seed in Doha, has proven to be one of the biggest hitters on the circuit. But Wawrinka has shown his ability to also unleash on the ball, especially with his elegant, yet ferocious one-handed backhand.
Wawrinka came out on top in their only previous encounter, which came just more than three months ago in St. Petersburg. But that was a tightly contested affair with both sets going to tie-breaks, and the duo should put on another thrilling show in Doha. Khachanov or Wawrinka could eventually play seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the last eight, with Djokovic lurking in the semi-finals.
Dominic Thiem is the second seed in Doha, and the Austrian will try to add a third hard-court title to his resumé. Thiem opens against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who beat him in their only clash two years ago. That match was also on a hard court, albeit indoors, in Rotterdam.
Tomas Berdych, who has not competed since the Fever-Tree Championships in June, makes his return as a wild card against a player whom he has beaten on eight of 10 attempts: Philipp Kohlschreiber. Former World No. 4 Berdych seeks his first title since 2016 Shenzhen. The winner of that match could face No. 8 seed Fernando Verdasco in the second round.
Did You Know?
Djokovic is also competing in doubles in Doha, alongside his brother, Marko Djokovic. They have played together five times previously, with the last time coming in Dubai in 2013.