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Djokovic Opens Dubai Title Defence; Tsonga Advances

Dubai, U.A.E.

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic is chasing his fifth Dubai title.

Top seed Novak Djokovic opened his title defence at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Denis Istomin. Djokovic saved the four break points he faced and broke through late resistance from Istomin to seal victory in 84 minutes.

"It wasn't as easy as the scoreline indicates," said Djokovic. "I needed to work for my games. My serve worked really well in the second set, and that helped me to get some free points. But having not played for more than four, five weeks, an official match, obviously it takes its toll on the court. I practised a lot. I put in a lot of hours on the court, trying to develop my game, trying to get myself in the right shape, and it's going to click sooner or later."

The Serb is bidding for a fifth title at this ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tennis tournament, where he lifted the trophy in 2009-11 and 2013 (d. Berdych). He has a 29-3 tournament record and improved to a 5-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head mark against Istomin. 

"The atmosphere is great. I enjoy it," said Djokovic. "It's a beautiful stadium. I have had lots of success on this court, at this tournament, and I always look forward to coming back."

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The 26-year-old Djokovic is looking to win his first ATP World Tour title of the season and a run to the semi-finals this week would see him claim his 550th tour-level match win. The right-hander was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open in his only tournament so far this year, losing out to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka.

Fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed just 72 minutes to dismiss Victor Hanescu 6-2, 6-4 in the first round. The Frenchman converted four of his 10 break points and won 72 per cent of his service points as he won the pair’s first meeting in six years.

"I see myself continuing to work, continuing to improve my game," said Tsonga. "Nobody knows what will happen in a few weeks. So I keep fighting. I stay confident. This is the key."

The 28-year-old Tsonga is coming off a runner-up showing at the Open 13 in Marseille, where he was beaten in the final by Ernests Gulbis. The right-hander is making his fourth appearance in Dubai and is looking to get past the quarter-finals for the first time.

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