Dubai | Murray beaten while Djokovic remains on course

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Former world No.1 Andy Murray was beaten by the Italy’s Jannik Sinner, the fourth seed at the Duty Free Tennis Championships to not only lose out on a place in the quarter-finals, but also missing out on securing his 700th win on the ATP Tour

He is a legend. Winning three Grand Slams, many, many tournaments and he has had some unfortunate moments with surgeries. His fighting spirit is incredible. Jannik Sinner

The Scot was beaten in straight sets, 7-5 6-2 in a match where the 20-year-old took complete control in the second set, as Murray struggled to make an impression with his serve.

The three-time Grand Slam champion was unable to bring up a single break point throughout the match and found himself with too much to do after going a double break down in the second.

As in his first match in Dubai, he took out his frustrations by slamming his racket into the court as Sinner applied the pressure in the opening set.

He survived a couple of break points and while both players had chances to break it was Sinner who did in the 10th courtesy of a poor service game from the Brit when he volleyed into the net to concede his serve to love.

The Italian then followed that up by holding his own serve to 30 to secure the opening set 7-5.

The Italian, world ranked 10 and currently the youngest player in the world’s top-ten, was proving unplayable much to the discomfiture of his opponent who could only watch as he went on to close out the match and gain a place in the last eight after one hour and 43-minutes, by scoring his first win against the Brit whom he descried as ‘a legend’.

“It is a special feeling [to share the court with Murray],” Sinner said in his on-court interview of the former Dubai champion.

“He is a legend. Winning three Grand Slams, many, many tournaments and he has had some unfortunate moments with surgeries. His fighting spirit is incredible.”

“There were some nerves,” Sinner added. “I lost my last match against him. I tried to stay focused about my game and it worked. I think I played well, especially in the first set when it was tight in some moments.”

Sinner faces next the fifth-seeded Pole Hubert Hurkacz,

Andy Murray remains determined to achieve his target

Francois Nel/Getty Images

It meant Murray again needed to go the distance to progress through to the next round, having required three sets to get past Christopher O’Connell in round one, which looked unlikely from the opening game of the second set when Murray again dropped his serve.

The 34-year-old from Dunblane was not being given an easy ride by his young opponent in any of his service games and nearly lost his serve for a third time in the third game.

But with the momentum in his favour, the young Italian did break him in the fifth game to go 4-1 up but not before Murray had saved three break points in what proved a lengthy game.
Murray blamed a lack of mental toughness for falling short of his 700th milestone win on this occasion.

He said in his post-match press conference: “Obviously it’s something I want to achieve.

“Unless something went horribly wrong in the next six, eight months, I will get to that number. But, yeah, there’s no excuse for some of the performances I’ve had recently in terms of how I’ve been playing.

“I need time on the practice court. I need consistency in terms of the things that I’m working on, consistent messages.

“Yeah, I mentally need to be a lot tougher than what I have been in some of my matches recently.”

Novak Djokovic says he has missed playing tennis

Martin Dokoupil/Getty Images

Meanwhile the top seeded Novak Djokovic continued his comeback by beating Russia’s Karen Khachanov to reach the Dubai quarter-finals.

The Serb, playing in his first tournament of the season after failing to convince Australian Covid authorities that his unvaccinated status was safe, won 6-3 7-6(2).

The 20-time Grand Slam champion next plays Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, who beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-4.

“I’ve missed playing competitively, obviously. Tennis is my life and all what I have known to do,” Djokovic said after beating the big Russian.

“Professional tennis is my love. I enjoy travelling, playing and hopefully bringing some positive emotions and memories for the people who come to watch.”

Even if he goes on to win the Dubai title, Djokovic could still lose the world number one ranking next week to his Russian rival Daniil Medvedev who in turn must win the Mexican Open to overtake the Serb.

Against 26th-ranked Khachanov, Djokovic started superbly as he hit cleanly and confidently to move a set and a break up but the Russian then raised his own level to pressure him in the second eventually forcing a tie-break where Djokovic took final control to secure his place in the last eight.

Also through to quarter-finals is Canadas Denis Sahpovalov with a 6-4 6-3 win over Japan’s Taro Daniel.

Shapovalov saved the only break point he faced and broke Daniel five times from eight chances in a match that took just over one hour and 23-minutes to complete.

Next up for Shapovalov is a match against Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis, who at 99, sits 85 places lower than Shapovalov in the world rankings.

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