Khachanov backs Djokovic after hosting Dubai encounter


Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic’s second-round opponent in Dubai will be world No. 26 Karen Khachanov, who said he respects the Serbian’s steadfast stance against the Covid-19 vaccination.

Khachanov rode through a two-hour, 46-minute duel with Australia’s Alex de Minaur, 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 7-5, to book a round of 16 meeting with top seed Djokovic .

Djokovic will struggle to travel to many countries this season as an unvaccinated individual.

He has already declared that he is not allowed to enter the United States, where two Masters 1000 tournaments will be held next month in Indian Wells and Miami.

On Monday, Andy Murray said he disagreed with Djokovic’s stance against vaccination but felt “it would be better for tennis if he played all the major events”.

“Of course, I agree with Andy. It’s a very delicate situation where it’s basically his decision (in Djokovic); he has to respect his decisions and I respect that a lot,” Khachanov told AFP. Tuesday.

“Obviously it would definitely be better if he could play a normal season and he could go everywhere, but I think he has his team around him, he has his own decisions and he will stick to them.

“But if we’re talking in general, of course, not seeing him in many tournaments as world No. 1, it’s going to be difficult for him to maybe stay there and find the rhythm too. So let’s see what happens. past.

“On Monday, Djokovic made his debut in the 2022 season, beating Italian joker Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 in what was his first match since being expelled from Australia last month.

The world No.1 said he received a positive reception from the players in the dressing room in Dubai this week.

“It’s great to see him here, he played a great game,” Poland’s No.5 seed Hubert Hurkacz said after his 6-3, 6-1 win over Alexander Bublik in the first round on Tuesday.

“I’m very happy for him after a few difficult weeks for him, especially at the start of the year.

“Khachanov, eyeing a return to the world top 10 for the first time since October 2019, holds a 1-4 head-to-head record against Djokovic, whose only loss to the Russian came in the World Cup final. Paris Masters three-and-a-half years ago.

“When you play these kinds of tournaments and you want to be successful and go far, you have to expect to have a tough draw, you have tough matches,” Khachanov said.

“For him (Djokovic) it’s only his first tournament, he played very well yesterday for his start to the season. But I’ll be there, I’ll try to fight, I’ll try to play my game and let’s see how bad it will be.”

The two finalists from last year in Dubai, champion Aslan Karatsev and runner-up Lloyd Harris, were eliminated in the first round on Tuesday.

Karatzev lost 7-5, 6-3 to US world No. 61 Mackenzie McDonald.

Harris lost to lucky Slovakian loser Alex Molcan 6-3, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner saved three match points in the second-set tiebreak en route to a 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 victory over Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The 20-year-old’s reward is a last-16 showdown with Murray.

Sinner was playing his first match since his Australian Open quarter-final. An episode of Covid-19 forced him to withdraw from Rotterdam two weeks ago. The Italian phenom recently parted ways with his coaching staff, led by Riccardo Piatti, and launched his new partnership with Simone Vagnozzi this week in Dubai.


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