Novak Djokovic has called Stefanos Tsitsipas “one of the leaders of the next generation” ahead of their showdown at the Dubai Championships. Both men reached the final in contrasting fashion on a dramatic day at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre.
Earlier in the day, Tsitsipas eased past Great Britain’s Dan Evans 6-2 6-3 to take his place in the final.
They were then followed onto court by Gael Monfils and Djokovic, who were meeting for the 17th time.
Monfils had never beaten Djokovic in their previous 16 meetings but he made a fast start, winning the first set 6-2 and going a break up in the second.
But Djokovic hit back to get level and saved three match points in a tiebreak before battling back to force a third set.
The effort of the first two sets had clearly taken a toll on Monfils in the final set and Djokovic took advantage to sprint away and complete a 2-6 7-6 6-1 win.
Djokovic, a four-time champion in Dubai, now meets Tsitsipas for the fifth time on Saturday.
It is 2-2 in their head to head and both men have unbeaten streaks to defend.
Tsitsipas has firmly established himself at the top of the men’s game over the past 12 months and Djokovic says the final between them is too close to call.
“Stefanos is one of the leaders of the next generation. He’s very dedicated and very talented,” he said in his on-court interview.
“He is very charismatic, very interesting off the court and very nice, I’ve known him since he was very young.
“You could say in his junior days that he is going to be definitely one of the best players in the world.
“And he is proving that his potential and talent is right and worthy.
“He has played some great tennis this week and back to back with Marseille. He is in form and very confident. It’s [the] finals. It’s anybody’s game really.
It’s not easy… I hope I can recover. I hope I can be at my best because I need to start better than I have tonight.
“Hopefully I can get a title.”