DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — Novak Djokovic won his 16th match of an undefeated season, hammering Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-2 for a place in the Dubai Championships semifinals on Thursday.
The world number one, playing in the United Arab Emirates for an 11th time, will face third seed Gael Monfils, who beat French compatriot Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-3.
It will be four-time champion Djokovic’s ninth appearance in the Dubai semifinals.
Winning Thursday’s match assured him of keeping hold of the world number one ranking despite competition at this week’s Acapulco event from second-ranked rival Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic will be favored to make the Dubai finals as he defeated Monfils 16 times in 16 meetings.
“We will work out a strategy,” Monfils said after winning his 12th match in a row in 2020. “But I don’t exactly know what it will be.”
Top seed Djokovic, who has yet to drop a set, needed just 68 minutes to beat Dubai-based Khachanov for the third time in four meetings.
“The wind was even stronger today on the court, changing directions all the time. It was really, really tough to get the rhythm for the serve,” Djokovic said.
“Karen made a lot of unforced errors, which obviously made my life easier especially in the first set to go up 5-1, two breaks.”
“From my end, it was a solid performance. I moved well in defense. I was using the variety, the drop shots, always making him guess what is coming next. That was the goal obviously.”
Meanwhile, second seed Stefano Tsitsipas beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a semifinal with Britain’s Dan Evans, who outlasted in-form Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (11/9).
The two-hour and 23-minute duel allowed Greek Tsitsipas to claim a seventh successive win.
It followed another long struggle as Evans upset sixth seed Rublev to reach the fourth ATP semifinal of his career.
World number 37 Evans said the thought of playing another set after more than two hours was just too much to consider and he worked hard to wrap up victory in straight sets.
“It was tough. I just hung in at the end and got through,” unseeded Evans said.
“But I just didn’t fancy playing another set. I think that’s what got me through.”
Tsitsipas trailed throughout most of the match against the 34th-ranked Struff, only taking the statistical lead late in the third set with a break for 5-4 that set up his victory.
“I was struggling with my return today, I don’t know what was wrong with it,” Tsitsipas said.
“I’m actually pretty proud that I fought so hard, played with attention when I had to. When I got the break in the third set I knew that was my time to close the match. I did it in perfect style.”
Tsitsipas is defending his runners-up points from last year when he lost the final to Roger Federer.
He arrived in Dubai after winning the Marseille trophy over the weekend.
Evans, whose previous semifinal appearances came in Zagreb in 2014, Sydney in 2017 and Delray Beach a year ago, needed nearly two and a quarter hours to advance.