DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Top-ranked Novak Djokovic won his second match – and first tiebreaker – of the year when he beat Karen Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (2) on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships.
Djokovic couldn’t defend his Australian Open title last month because he was deported from the country for not being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The 34-year-old Serb said he’s missed playing competitively.
“This is my life, this is what I’ve known to do and I still keep on going for the last 20 years almost,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview after beating his Russian opponent.
“Professional tennis is my love. I enjoy travelling, I enjoy playing, I enjoy hopefully bringing some positive emotions and memories to people that come to watch.”
Djokovic is a five-time winner at the event. He will next play Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, who advanced by beating eighth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-4.
American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald beat Filip Krajinovic 6-4, 7-6 (7) to set up a quarterfinal against second-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia. McDonald had upset another Russian, seventh-seeded Aslan Karatsev, in the first round.
Rublev, who won the Open 13 tournament in Marseille on Sunday, reached the quarterfinals by beating Soonwoo Kwon 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.