Novak Djokovic opened his campaign for a fifth Dubai title by beating Tunisian Malek Jaziri in straight sets yesterday. In the process, he also extended his perfect start to the 2020 season to 14-0.
The 32-year-old Serb, who won all his six singles matches for Serbia at the inaugural ATP Cup and followed it up with a record-extending 8th Australian Open title, has now equaled his best start to a season in four years. He also went 14-0 in 2016 before losing to Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the Dubai quarterfinals.
Following his Australian Open triumph, Djokovic reclaimed the World No. 1 ranking he last occupied in the week of the 2019 Paris-Bercy Masters. The Serb's 279 weeks at the numero uno spot is only behind that of Pete Sampras (286) and Roger Federer (310) in the all-time list.
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Djokovic, who is 325 points ahead of second-placed Rafael Nadal, is not defending any points this week. Meanwhile the Spaniard, who is playing in Acapulco, is defending the 45 points he gained from a second round exit to eventual winner Nick Kyrgios last year.
That means Djokovic has a 370-point head-start this week, which has swelled to 415 after his opening round victory over Jaziri. The 17-time Grand Slam champion next locks horns with German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat him at Indian Wells last year but is 2-11 lifetime against the Serb.
Nadal needs to win the Acapulco title to stand a chance of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking he lost following the conclusion of the 2020 Australian Open. At the same time, he would also require some 'help' from the opponents strewn in Djokovic's half of the draw in Dubai.
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A title run for the Spaniard in Acapulco would not be enough to return him to No. 1 if Djokovic reaches the last four at the Dubai Open.
If Nadal takes his third Acapulco title this week, he will gain 445 points (500 minus the 45 he is defending this week). Djokovic, who is 415 points ahead of Nadal in the rankings, would gain another 45 points if he beats Kohlschreiber and reaches the quarterfinals in Dubai.
In that case, Nadal would have to hope that Karen Khachanov, Djokovic's probable quarterfinal opponent if the seedings hold good, is able to reprise his title-winning form at 2018 Paris-Bercy and become the first player to beat Djokovic in 2020.
If Djokovic reaches the Dubai semifinals, he is guaranteed to stay No. 1 regardless of Nadal's exploits in Mexico. And even if he loses before that, he would remain on top as long as Nadal doesn't win the Acapulco title.