Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils put their respective winning streaks on the line as they battle for a spot in the Dubai final on Friday.
Djokovic vs Monfils is live from Dubai in Friday, 28 February from 7:00pm local time/ 3:00pm GMT
Djokovic is a perfect 16-0 for the season, but Monfils is not too far behind with his 16-2 record. The Frenchman is also on a career-best 12-match winning streak.
While all of that is impressive, the most telling numbers could be that Djokovic is 16-0 against Monfils in their head-to-head meetings. Will the Serbian maintain his pristine numbers against Monfils, or can the Frenchman ride on his great form to score his first ever victory over the world No. 1?
Djokovic is bidding for his sixth Dubai final, and a first since 2015. The Serbian is a four-time champion at this tournament (2009-2011, and 2014), but he had not made a semi-final since 2015, and did not participate in any of the last three seasons. The 32-year-old has made an excellent comeback in 2020, easing into the semi-finals with minimum of fuss.
Djokovic opened with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Malek Jaziri, dismissed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-1 in the second round before dismantling Karen Khachanov 6-2 6-2 in just 67 minutes in the quarter finals.
“I don’t know if I’m playing the best tennis of my career, that’s a big statement, but I’m feeling and playing well,” said Djokovic, who is now 39-6 in Dubai. “I like the conditions, but in windy conditions it’s not easy to serve and find rhythm. I know it wasn’t Karen’s day, but I think I played a very solid match. I’m trying to be in the present and execute my game plan.”
Djokovic’s No. 1 ranking came under some threat at the start of the week, with Rafael Nadal (who’s competing in Acapulco) in with a chance of usurping the Serbian, but by virtue of his semi-final run in Dubai, Djokovic is guaranteed to hold on to his No. 1 position when the rankings are updated next Monday. The Serbian has played like the undisputed No. 1 this year, opening with a 6-0 record in a tough singles campaign at the ATP Cup to propel Serbia to the title, continuing with a 7-0 run at the Australian Open, and now putting together a 3-0 record in Dubai.
It will take a brave man to bet against the Serbian at the moment, but then again, if anyone can do take down Djokovic, an in-form Gael Monfils should be able to…
After a quiet ATP Cup, during which he went 1-1 in his singles matches, Monfils warmed up with a fourth round of the Australian Open, where he was beaten by Dominic Thiem, before going on a tear that has so far spanned 12 matches. He’s won all of those matches in straight sets, meaning he goes into Friday’s Dubai semi-final against Djokovic on a 24-set winning streak.
The Frenchman claimed his ninth and tenth career titles in Montpellier and Rotterdam, and is on course for a third consecutive tour title this week in Dubai, where he has now made the semi-finals for the second straight year.
Monfils was pushed relatively very hard by Marton Fucsovics in the first round- he won 6-4 6 7-5- but he’s had a couple of more routine wins after that, beating Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-1 6-2 and Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-3 to move into the semis. The 33-year-old powered down 8 aces against Gasquet, winning 77% of points on his first serve and 63% on the second. He kept Gasquet under constant pressure, converting four of the 19 break points he created.
It is perhaps mildly surprising that Monfils has not managed to beat Djokovic in any of their previous 16 matches. The Frenchman is one of very few players that can match Djokovic for athleticism, and hurt the Serbian with power at the same time. He hasn’t just managed to put it all together consistently enough over the years.
While I’ll like to think Monfils has a chance, particularly given his form, that head-to-head cannot be discounted. Let’s also not forget that Djokovic has been in even better form. The world No. 1 should again be too good on Friday.