Novak Djokovic humble in desert defeat: I lost to a better opponent

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Djokovic was making his return from injury at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week, where he is a five-time winner, but his parade was cut short in the semi-finals following a 6-4 6-4 loss to the Russian. Djokovic had suffered a hamstring tear in his Australian Open title run, but nonetheless arrived in Dubai with a sparkling 15-0 record for 2023. As such, it was a surprise when he could only earn one solitary break point against Medvedev. But the world number one made no excuses. "I lost to a better opponent," said the Serb at the post-match press conference. "I know that I didn't play well in some decisive moments, but it was also due to his quality of tennis. It's unfortunate I had some really bad mistakes in the first set to give him the second break. But this is tennis. You learn from your mistakes and from the defeats, and hopefully next time I'll be better." Medvedev improved his head-to-head record to 5-9 against Djokovic and ended a four-game losing streak. Before Friday, the last time he defeated Djokovic was for his maiden grand slam title at the US Open in 2021. Djokovic went on to heap praise on Medvedev, who will face fellow countryman Andrey Rublev in the final on Saturday.

"He extracts and provokes unforced errors from everybody because that's his game, that's what he does," he continued. "He does it extremely well. He's very patient. He's very athletic. For his height, he moves well. Backhand is one of the most consistent strokes that you have in today's game." In terms of his schedule, Djokovic has the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open coming up, both of which are tournaments where he has enjoyed a lot of success in previous years. However, with the US still requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination for non-US citizens, Djokovic has applied for an exemption. "I'm still waiting for the news from America," revealed the 22-time grand slam winner. "If there's no America, I guess I'll play clay. Monte Carlo is probably the next tournament. If that's the case, I'll take some time off, I'll prepare. Clay is the most demanding surface. It takes more time than any other surface to prepare for."

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