Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal resume world no 1 battle after early season break

World No 1 Novak Djokovic returns to action in Dubai on Monday, three weeks after winning the Australian Open. The Serbian won his 17th Grand Slam title in Melbourne to get his 2020 season off to the best possible start.

Djokovic leads Rafael Nadal by 325 points in the world rankings after overtaking his rival with victory in opening major of the season.

Both are playing in ATP 500 events this week and an early defeat for Djokovic would open the door for Nadal to regain top spot.

Djokovic last won the title in 2013 and he begins his attempt at a fifth trophy with a first-round clash against Malek Jaziri.

“I missed it. I haven’t played here for [four] years and I look forward to getting out on the court,” said Djokovic.

“I started off the season in the best possible way in Australia and I am hoping I can continue that streak this week in Dubai.

“We get along very well. He is a super nice guy and we train a lot. It is unfortunate.

“It is very odd that that happened, in terms of the draw, but he is a very talented player and he is very experienced as well. He has played many years on the Tour.”

Two years ago, Jaziri beat Grigor Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the semi-finals and Djokovic says he is well aware of the threat posed by the Tunisian.

“He upset Zverev [two years ago] in China, so he doesn’t feel much pressure playing on the centre courts of the big tournaments,” said Djokovic.


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“I have got to approach that very seriously and try to bring my best game, because my first match after several weeks of a break is tricky. You have to approach it seriously.”

Roger Federer was due to compete in Dubai but withdrew after undergoing surgery on his right knee.

On the other side of the world, world No 2 Nadal plays at the Acapulco Open in a high-quality field in Mexico.

The Spaniard starts his tournament against compatriot Pablo Andujar and could then face Alex de Minaur.

Nadal has won in Acapulco on just two occasions in his career and victory this week would mean a 17th consecutive season with at least one title.

Last year, Nadal was beaten in the second round by Nick Kyrgios, who went on to win the event.

Kyrgios, who pulled out of the Delray Beach Open last week with a wrist injury, plays Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the opening round.

And the Australian could then meet Felix Auger-Aliassime or Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals with second seed Alexander Zverev potentially in the semi-finals.

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