Jaziri full of belief as he prepares to battle good friend Djokovic in Dubai

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Jaziri has hit with Djokovic on a number of occasions this year.

Malek Jaziri on Wednesday faces a task that many describe as ‘Mission Impossible’ when he tries to beat Novak Djokovic in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships second round but the Tunisian wildcard refuses to see it that way.

Jaziri ended a five-match losing streak and got his first win of the year by beating Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round on Monday and he’s excited to take on the World No.1.

Djokovic, a four-time champion in Dubai, is a good friend of Jaziri’s having met the North African during the IPTL in 2014 when they played on the same team – the UAE Royals.

Since then, they’ve practiced together many times at various tournaments around the world but their second round clash will be their first official match against one another.

“I feel good, I’ve been wanting to play him for a long time, so we’ll see how it goes,” Jaziri told Sport360 after his practice session.

Jaziri, who peaked at No.65 in the world rankings exactly a year ago but has now slipped to 121, is the highest ranked Arab and a crowd favourite in Dubai.

Djokovic finds him a talented individual but the Serb admits that when he first met him, he realised Jaziri was not necessarily working as hard as someone at that level typically does.

“We have very good relationship. We got closer as friends in the IPTL. He’s very laid back, very nice guy,” said Djokovic of the Tunisian.

“Obviously he wants to do well here. He’s not from Emirates, but he feels that he comes from this part of the world. He enjoys the support.

“I have seen a little of his match (against Youzhny). He played well. He improved a lot. I always thought he’s very talented, but working was not on his priority list every day,” Djokovic said with a smile.

“You know, he just enjoys life a lot. It’s great. But I think he realised that he can be better. He can play better if he worked a little bit harder, which he’s doing now over the last couple of months.

“He told me he had a great off-season and it pays off. Let’s see what happens. He plays quite different from (my first round opponent) Tommy Robredo. He’s standing closer to the line, he has flat shots and better serve. Got to be ready for it.”

Getting to know the likes of Djokovic better through the IPTL was an eye-opener for Jaziri, who got to see how the top guys operated on a day-to-day basis and how much professionalism and hard work they put in.

“I was around people that were more professional and more dedicated to tennis so maybe I changed a bit after that,” said the 32-year-old.

“I changed my mind-set, many things, I tried to practice more heading into this season.

“I feel like I’m enjoying my tennis more now, having fun, taking pleasure. I’m playing in good tournaments, facing good players, so I’m trying to enjoy it.”

Jaziri practiced several times with Djokovic in Doha and Melbourne this year and that was also a great learning opportunity for him.

“His intensity is incredible in practice. You get to how these guys practice, how they recover, how the coach and the rest of the staff works with them. Everyone has their own role and you learn a lot from observing these things,” said Jaziri, who is a former quarter-finalist in Dubai.

Jaziri is no stranger to playing big matches on centre court here at the Aviation Club. In 2013, he led Roger Federer by a set in the first round before he fell to the Swiss in three.

“That match, I was feeling the ball so well, I played like I had nothing to lose. It was a great memory even though I lost. I always wanted to play Roger and I managed to take a set,” recalls Jaziri.

“This match is different. I’m playing a guy who is winning everything, full of confidence beating all the players, he’s positive and he’s doing the right things and he’s playing maybe the best tennis of his life.

“I’ll play my game, do my best and who knows, maybe I wake up on a good day… I’ll stay focused and believe in myself. Everything is about believing. Winning or losing, that doesn’t matter, but you step on the court playing to win. It’s very important that before the match you think that you have a chance.

“I’ve always liked playing in Dubai. I have to thank Salah Tahlak and Dubai Duty Free for the wildcard. They give me everything to feel like I’m at home here. They give me confidence, I feel like they believe in me and that they want me to get a good result and that the people here enjoy watching me. When you play and you fight and people see that, they will support you more. And that’s what happens when I play here.”

Most popular

Wawrinka battles back to defeat Stakhovsky in Dubai

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Stan Wawrinka returns the ball to Sergiy Stakhovsky.

For a moment there, the Dubai crowd worried that the seeds massacre that decimated the WTA tournament here last week would carry over into the men’s event as No2 seed Stan Wawrinka stood two points away from defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round on Tuesday night.

But Wawrinka, playing in Dubai for the first time since 2008, dug deep to recover and scrape through with a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 victory over the tricky Ukrainian, who was serving and volleying throughout the two-hour encounter, enjoying the fast conditions of the Aviation Club centre court.

Six days earlier, Wawrinka had to save a match point to beat Stakhovsky in the second round in Marseille. He didn’t face a match point on Tuesday but it was just as close.

The Swiss two-time grand slam champion was misfiring on his backhand and couldn’t find his best game but held on to record his first ever match victory in Dubai and book a second round with Croatian qualifier Franko Skugor.

“It’s good for confidence but it was a tough match, first match. I wasn’t playing well at all. I was playing not too great today. I was struggling with the conditions, with my game. Quite fast conditions. (Ball is) Flying,” said Wawrinka, who fell in the Marseille quarter-finals last week and is in search of his best form.

“I was hesitating, always being behind. And it’s tough to play especially against him who doesn’t give you too much rhythm.

“But it’s a good win, great win for me. Not playing well, still winning, still fighting, still finding a way, playing a little bit better at the end, trying to be the aggressive player on the court.

“It’s good to have a chance to play better tomorrow.”

Wawrinka broke for 5-3 in the first set but then lost six games in a row to lose the set and fall behind 0-2 in the second.

He finally stopped the bleeding and held for 1-2. The 30-year-old got the break back on a long backhand from Stakhovsky to draw level at 3-all.

The Swiss got two break points with a smooth backhand volley and he broke for a 5-3 lead.

Wawrinka finally found his backhand as he unleashed a lethal crosscourt to get triple set point. He only needed one as he levelled the match with an ace.

The reigning French Open champion was in trouble early in the decider but a stunning forehand passing shot helped him hold serve.

Wawrinka went down 0-30 while serving to stay in the match as he inched closer to defeat. He slammed a backhand passing shot for 15-30 and barely hung on to hold for 5-5.

Stakhovsky got tight while Wawrinka refocused to create a break chance the next game, and the Swiss broke on a long passing shot attempt from his opponent.

Wawrinka closed out the match on a long backhand from Stakhovsky, holding at love.

“I play him in Marseille. I saved match point to beat him. I expected a tough match, but I wasn’t expecting to play that bad,” admitted Wawrinka, who added that he has some homework to do, to find out more about his upcoming unheralded opponent.

Skugor is the surprise package of the tournament so far. The world No188 upset James Ward and Kyle Edmund in qualifying before ousting Teymuraz Gabashvili in the first round yesterday.

Late on centre court, Nick Kyrgios survived a tough test against No7 seed Martin Klizan, overcoming the quick turnaround following his title triumph in Marseille two days earlier, to advance 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 91 minutes.

Klizan, a big-hitting lefty who won Rotterdam two weeks ago, committed 11 double faults, served at a poor 43 per cent first serves, and was broken six times.

Kyrgios was clearly struggling, unable to unleash the huge shots he is famous for regularly, but showed strong character in the way he fought. He spent most of the changeovers standing by the baseline, instead of sitting at his bench, and concedes it was a tough encounter to get through.

“I wasn’t really thinking that well out there. I probably just wanted to get the game going, I guess,” said Kyrgios, who next faces Mikhail Kukushkin.

“Mentally I was okay with it. I was actually pretty excited to get here and play. But obviously physically coming off the flights, it was tough.

“Yeah, I’m happy I got through. I wasn’t feeling great out there. To will myself is not a bad effort.”

Earlier in the day, No3 seed Tomas Berdych, who has reached the semi-finals or better in Dubai in four of the last five years, eased past Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-4 to set up a second round with Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano.

Most popular

Novak Djokovic: I hope Federer recovers fast

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

There aren’t many places in the world nowadays where Novak Djokovic is not the most successful player but Dubai happens to be one of those stops.

Djokovic – a four-time Dubai champion – has had to share top honours here over the past decade with Roger Federer, whose seven titles picked up in the Emirates are the most anyone has ever won at this event.

Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery, is missing the Dubai tournament for just the third time since he made his debut here in 2002. And while his absence strengthens Djokovic’s chances in securing a fifth Dubai trophy, the world No1 says he’s not happy Federer isn’t around.

“I hope he recovers fast, because we are not used to seeing him injured. He’s very fit, and he plays very well throughout the entire year,” Djokovic said on Monday after easing past Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round at the Aviation Club.


“He’s very important for our sport. He’s the most successful player of this tournament. So for sure the tournament will miss him.








“Again, that doesn’t change much in the way I approach this tournament. I will try to go as far as I can, even with him not playing here.”



Djokovic was making his first appearance since winning an all-time record sixth Australian Open three weeks ago but showed zero signs of rust in his 65-minute drubbing of the veteran Spaniard.


Robredo, a 33-year-old former world No5 who is now down to No41, had actually beaten Djokovic in their most recent meeting, in Cincinnati in 2014, but he was no match for the top seed in their Dubai opener yesterday.


Djokovic eased to a 3-0 lead and hit a cunning lob en route to breaking again for 5-1, putting on a show with wide variety in his shots and he easily served out the set.


The top seed broke in the third game of the second and never looked back, booking a second round meeting with Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri.


The world No1 is now just one match away from hitting the 700 wins milestone and could tie Ivan Lendl’s record of making 18 consecutive finals should he reach the title match in Dubai this week.



“Obviously playing first match in three weeks, different conditions, I didn’t know how I’m going to start, whether or not I’m going to execute the game plan as I prepared myself to. But everything went well. Very few things went wrong,” explained Djokovic, who is currently on a 16-match winning streak.


“I was putting constant pressure on his serve. I returned very, very well. Served solid and was aggressive from back of the court. I cannot be happier with this performance.”


Earlier in the day, Jaziri justified his wildcard by completing a 6-4, 6-1 victory over two-time Dubai runner-up Mikhail Youzhny in the first round.


Jaziri came to the UAE winless in 2016, carrying a five-match losing streak, but stood his ground as he took out the Russian qualifier.




“It was very hard day, really. Was very hot on court, and in the beginning it was very hard for me, even to breathe. I just arrived from the US two days ago (lost in the first round in Delray Beach). I woke up this morning very early. I’m still jet-lagged,” said the 32-year-old.


“But the most important thing is that I was fighting. During the whole match from the first point to the end, I was fighting. I had a break down and then I came back. So was very important for me today this win.”


On his upcoming match against Djokovic, Jaziri, who is a good friend of the Serb, said: “It would be a good match. I will try to enjoy on court and I will play all my chances.


“He’s playing his best tennis now, and is true he’s beating everyone. But I will be on court like all the matches. In tennis you never know. That’s part of this beautiful game. Who knows? Maybe I wake up on a good day.”


Over on Court 1, South Korean teenager Chung Hyeon took out Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round.




The ATP’s Most Improved Player of the Year in 2015, is one of the youngsters to watch on tour and was making his Dubai debut.


“It was a good win, it was tough, Seppi’s a baseliner, he plays well. And after three weeks playing indoors, I think I did well,” Chung said.


Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis upset No5 seed Viktor Troicki 7-6(2), 6-2 in 90 minutes to book a second round meeting with Canadian Vasek Pospisil.


“In the first set I think I started a bit too aggressive I think then I slowed down a bit, I was more patient. In the tiebreak I was more patient than him, played less unforced errors and I was in control in the second set,” said Baghdatis, a semi-finalist in Dubai in 2010.


“The courts here are very fast, I like them, it suits my serve, my game. It’s nice to come back to Dubai, great weather after the Europe tour.”



Most popular