Novak Djokovic has lived up to his top billing at the 2020 Dubai Open, marking his first appearance at the tournament in four years by moving into the quarterfinals without dropping a set. In the process, the reigning Australian Open champion has extended his perfect start to the season to 15-0.
Elsewhere, Gael Monfils has extended his winning streak to a personal best 11, following his back-to-back title runs in Montpellier and Rotterdam. Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has also won two matches on the bounce, following the first successful title defence of his career last week in Marseille.
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Another player who has made a fine start to the 2020 season is young Russian Andrey Rublev. The Russian won 11 matches to start the new year before losing to Alexander Zverev in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The first player in 15 years to win multiple titles before the first Grand Slam of the tennis calendar, Rublev, along with Djokovic and Monfils, are the early match win leaders in the 2020 ATP season.
On that note, let us have a preview of the four quarterfinals at the 2020 Dubai Open.
#1 (x1) Novak Djokovic vs (x7) Karen Khachanov
Karen Khachanov beat Mikhail Kukushkin and Denis Novak without dropping a set to reach his first quarterfinal at the tournament - where he will face four-time former champion and top seed Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic is making his first appearance in Dubai since a quarterfinal defeat to Feliciano Lopez in 2016. Following straight-sets wins over Malek Jaziri and Philipp Kohlschreiber, the World No. 1 has reached his 11th quarterfinal at the tournament (7-2 record, 1 walkover).
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Either side of losing in the final of the 2018 Paris-Bercy Masters, Djokovic beat Khachanov in the fourth round at 2018 Wimbledon and in the 2019 Davis Cup in Madrid last season. The powerful Russian has the game to take the racquet out of the hands of the best returner in the game, but whether he would have the consistency to do an encore of his 2018 Paris-Bercy acts remains to be seen.
A defeat to Khachanov would open the door for Rafael Nadal to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, if the Spaniard goes all the way in Acapulco this week.
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#2 (x3) Gael Monfils vs Richard Gasquet
2020 ATP match wins leader Gael Monfils (15-2) is riding a personal-best 11-match win streak following consecutive title runs in Montpellier and Rotterdam coupled with two wins to reach the Dubai quarterfinals.
For a place in the last 4, Monfils will lock horns with compatriot Richard Gasquet in an all-French affair. Monfils leads the pair's head to head 10-7 and has won 3 of their last 4 meetings, but on hardcourt, Monfils and Gasquet have split their 12 meetings.
In his third Dubai quarterfinal, Monfils would seek a return to the semifinals for the second time in as many years. Meanwhile Gasquet would look to reach the last four for the first time since 2011 (lost to Federer in the semifinals).
While there is very little to choose between the two players, Monfils' recent form gives him a slight edge over his compatriot.