ATP Dubai: Vesely ousts Djokovic in quarters, Medvedev confirmed as new world no. 1

Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely celebrates after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their quarter-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis...

After emerging unscathed through two qualifying rounds to reach the Dubai main draw, then beating both Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut (#8) in straight-sets, Jiri Vesely’s week went from commendable to masterful after an inspired showing against Novak Djokovic, winning 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to knock the 20-time Grand Slam champion off his perch as the world’s best player.

Lightning strikes twice: Vesely upsets Djokovic again

Serbia's Novak Djokovic congratulates Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely on his victory during their quarter-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis...

The pair embrace after Vesely’s hard-fought victory against the odds, doing so in straight-sets too

Vesely [Q] bt. Djokovic [1] 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) 

  • Monday will mark the first time since 2004 that Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Djokovic won’t be ATP world number one after Serbian’s surprise defeat 
  • After successive straight-set wins over Lorenzo Musetti and Karen Khachanov in the first two rounds on his 2022 debut, 20-time Major winner began slow… then paid the price
  • Vesely – who began the week ranked world no. 123 and started the 2022 season with a 5-6 W/L record – climbs into the top-100 rankings again after his fourth top-10 victory

More than 2,100 days – five years and 10 months – after their first H2H meeting ended with a surprise three-set winner in Monte Carlo, Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely started brilliantly and importantly held his nerve en route to producing another shock victory against Novak Djokovic.

He broke the 34-year-old in the opening game and despite parity being restored a few games later, you could sense this would be a tightly-contested affair from the volatility of their early rallies. Djokovic’s forehand was flagging, his first serve not much better and Vesely fed off that.

Even still, the 28-year-old had plenty to do as Djokovic’s trademark defence came to the fore while his striking range improved considerably under increasing duress on the scoreboard.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts to his defeat by Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely during their quarter-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis...

Djokovic started sluggishly and despite initially recovering to get on level footing, it didn’t last

However unlike a best-of-five set format, time wasn’t on Djokovic’s side as Vesely often raced through service games and frequently applied pressure down the other end wherever possible.

It told in the end, with far too many Djokovic errors as he consciously tried to overcompensate for Vesely’s consistent powerful hitting. Despite doing well enough to take set two into a tiebreak, the Serb was 3-0 down quickly in that too as the inevitable edged closer to fruition.

Vesely’s reward? A semi-final spot against unpredictable Canadian talent Denis Shapovalov, who won 7-6, 6-3 vs. Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis to close this evening’s night session.

ATP Dubai semi-finals
Hubert Hurkacz [5] vs. Andrey Rublev [2]
Jiri Vesely vs. Denis Shapovalov [6]

But wait, how does this result impact Medvedev? 

Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates after beating Spain's Pablo Andujar during their Mexico ATP Open 500 men's singles tennis match at the Arena GNP,...

Medvedev, competing in Acapulco, faces Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka overnight in the quarter-finals

After losing to Daniil Medvedev in last year’s US Open Final and then being deported from Melbourne, unable to defend any of his 2000 points, won at last year’s Slam, Djokovic’s stranglehold over the world no. 1 ranking had weakened significantly in recent months.

Medvedev, currently competing in Acapulco at a separate ATP 500 event this week, no longer has pressure on his shoulders to win. The only way Djokovic could retain the #1 spot heading into Indian Wells, was if he bettered the Russian’s result – impossible with no control over outcomes.

ALSO READ: Daniil Medvedev’s historic ATP Finals win sets up a very promising 2021

A new career-high world no. 1 ranking will come as a late birthday present for the 26-year-old, though Medvedev’s consistency in recent years has proven difficult to match across all surfaces.

Considering he turns 35 in three months, it’s clear that Djokovic is at a stage of his career where goals and future targets are much different to Medvedev, especially after coming to terms with the unprecedented events over the past few months and the ripple effects they’ve had.

This change could’ve been solidified in Melbourne, but Medvedev was bested by an awe-inspiring Rafael Nadal showing as the Spaniard sealed his 21st Grand Slam title. Love him or hate him, Daniil deserves this spotlight now. How long it’ll last though, only he can answer that.

Acapulco quarter-finals
Daniil Medvedev [1] vs. Yoshihito Nishioka [Q]
Rafael Nadal [4] vs. Tommy Paul
Marcos Giron vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas [3]
Cameron Norrie [6] vs. Peter Gojowczyk [LL]

Picture source: Getty Images

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