Dubai | Djokovic loses match and No.1 ranking


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Daniil Medvedev, who is currently playing in Acapulco, will officially overtake Novak Djokovic for the top spot of the world rankings when the listings are announced next Monday following the Serbian’s loss to Jiri Vesely in the quarter-final stage of the Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai.

It’s great for tennis to have somebody new at world No. 1 again, Jiri Vesely

Vesely of the Czech Republic and ranked 123, won 6-4 7-6(4) for his second win against the 20-time grand slam champion, in two meetings.

Medvedev, at 26 years of age, will become the 27th man to reach the pinnacle of the World Rankings when they are published on Monday.

“It’s great for tennis to have somebody new at world No. 1 again,” Vesely said on court. “We all know Novak missed the Australian Open but anyway he’s such a champion, he’s been world No. 1 (for) 361 weeks so tennis needs, of course, new No. 1s. A new generation is coming up and I think it’s just great.”

Novak Djokovic will dropdown to 2 in the world rankings next week

Francois Nel/Getty Images

Competing in his first tournament of the season, and first since getting deported from Australia, Djokovic needed to at least reach the semi-finals to stop Daniil Medvedev from demoting him at the top of the rankings.

Djokovic said at the start of the tournament that he “would be the first to congratulate” Medvedev, if the Russian succeeded in his aim to bring his current reign at the top to an end.

“I’m lacking a little bit of the match play. You can see that. I’m still finding the groove on the court,” admitted Djokovic.

The 34-year-old is also worried that his status as an unvaccinated player will limit his opportunities of regaining that spot.

“It is. The more matches I play, the more comfortable I get on the court,” said Djokovic, who currently cannot enter the United States for next month’s Master 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.

“I need the match play. I didn’t have many matches at all last few months. Let’s see.”

Vesely, a former junior number one, has won five matches in Dubai so far this week, making it through the qualifying rounds to reach his first tour-level semi-final since Pune in 2020.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I never thought I would really have a chance against Novak, he’s one of the greatest of all time, if not the best,” he said.

“After the last 12 months, I’ve been going through… it’s unbelievable, I have so many emotions inside, it’s hard to describe, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Vesely, who next takes on Denis Shapovalov for a place in the final, added.

The 28-year-old, who survived a serious car crash last year, came out victorious in his only previous meeting with Djokovic, defeating the Serb on the clay courts of Monte Carlo back in 2016.

He started this match in a positive fashion by breaking the top seed to take a 2-0 lead.

However, he lost his advantage as the Serb struck back but some clever drop shots and some tricky lefty serves saw the towering Czech inch ahead once again and he served out the opening set after 47-minute on court.

A down-the-line backhand earned Vesely a break in the seventh game of the second set but he then failed to serve out as Djokovic hauled himself back into the match at 5-all to hold on for the tie-break.

There Vesely raced into a 3-0 lead from which Djokovic, a five-time former Dubai champion, was unable to pull back

Earlier on Centre Court, second seed Andrey Rublev advanced to his third semi-final in as many weeks with a 2-6 6-3 6-1 victory over American Mackenzie McDonald.

Contesting a 12th consecutive quarter-final, Rublev recovered from a poor start to reach the Dubai semi-finals for a second year in a row.

The 24-year-old Russian will next face off with Poland’s fifth seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who eased past Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-3 in 84-minutes.

Finally, Vesely’s next opponent, Denis Shapovalov, overcame a tough first to secure his place in the last eight against Ricardus Berankis, a qualifier from Lithuania, 7-6(4) 6-3.

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