:Novak Djokovic stayed on course for his third title of 2023 by powering into the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships with a 6-3 7-5 win over Hubert Hurkacz on Thursday.
The 35-year-old Serbian won in Adelaide before sealing his 22nd Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open while managing a hamstring injury and has hit top form after a slow start in Dubai on his return to the tour.
Having breezed through the first set on the back of a single break, Djokovic found the going a bit tougher in the next as the big-serving Hurkacz raised his game in search of a first win over the world number one in their fifth meeting.
After a crucial hold from 0-30 down to draw level at 5-5, Djokovic grabbed another break to heap the pressure on Hurkacz and the five-times champion closed out the match on serve.
“It was a challenging match as it always is against Hubert,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s got one of the best serves in the game. In the second set, until the 11th game I didn’t have too many chances against his serve.
“Fortunately for me, I also found the rhythm on my serve… one or two points can decide the winner in matches like these.
“I’m really glad with the way I played under pressure.”
Up next for Djokovic is a meeting with former world number one Daniil Medvedev, who beat Borna Coric 6-3 6-2.
Alexander Zverev earlier reached his first semi-final since last year’s French Open with a 7-5 6-4 win over Lorenzo Sonego.
The seventh seed has had a torrid time after injuring his ankle at Roland Garros and undergoing surgery, only returning to the ATP tour in December after suffering a bone edema problem during his rehabilitation.
“It’s been a very difficult time for me over the last nine months,” world number 16 Zverev said. “I haven’t played tennis at all for such a long period for the first time in my life.
“It definitely shows that the hard work is paying off and I’m extremely happy with my progress and how I’m playing right now. I’m happy to be in my first semi-final since the injury.
“Hopefully it won’t be my last and hopefully there’s much more to come here.”
Zverev next plays defending champion Andrey Rublev after the combustible Russian overcame a late wobble to get past Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 7-6(3).
Zverev has won each of their five meetings, including their last one in the 2021 Cincinnati final.
“It’s going to be tough,” Rublev said. “I have to play good, aggressive tennis.”