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Djokovic eyes gold strike at Paris Olympics

Novak Djokovic is hoping the Paris 2024 Games will be his most successful Olympics to date, as he continues to chase the gold medal that has so far eluded him.

After notching an impressive straight-sets victory over Dutch world number 39 Tallon Griekspoor on Wednesday to reach his 13th Dubai quarter-final in as many appearances, Djokovic spoke about his ambitions for the Olympic Games next year.

“I hope that I’ll be able to play healthy for next year’s Paris Olympics,” said Djokovic, whose best showing at the Games so far came in 2008 when he won bronze in singles.

“It’s going to be played on clay at Roland Garros, I’m familiar with those grounds, so I hope that the best Olympic result for me will come there.”

Two of Djokovic’s 22 Grand Slam titles have come at Roland Garros, in 2016 and 2021.

With a far more straightforward display compared to his opening round in Dubai, Djokovic extended his undefeated run this season to 14-0 – and his overall winning streak to 19 matches – with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Griekspoor, who is one of the most improved players on tour these past two months.

It was a clean performance from Djokovic, who dropped just two points behind his first serve and fired 29 winners against a mere six unforced errors.

“It’s been a great evening for me tonight. Yesterday I really had to work hard to get a win,” said five-time Dubai champion Djokovic, who squeezed past world No.130 Tomas Machac with a third-set tiebreak victory in the first round.

“Tonight I think right from the blocks, from the beginning I was sharp.”

Djokovic broke at the start of the match before play was interrupted due to light rain. The brief delay did nothing to disrupt the top seed’s rhythm though, as he comfortably scooped the opening set in 34 minutes.

The 35-year-old leapt to a 3-0 lead in the second set but had to battle through a marathon 16-minute game to make it 4-0.

Djokovic was broken on his first attempt at serving out the match but he recovered immediately, improving to 2-0 head-to-head against Griekspoor with a one-hour 21-minute victory.

Djokovic will square off with recent Marseille champion Hubert Hurkacz or qualifier Pavel Kotov for a place in the semi-finals.

Earlier in the day, Andrey Rublev thought he had run out of extra lives when he stared down five consecutive match points in the second-set tiebreak against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

But the Russian managed to rally back from 1-6 down in the breaker to force a decider, then squeezed past Davidovich Fokina 1-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) to keep his title Dubai title defense alive.

It was the third time this season that Rublev has saved match points en route to victory, having also done so against Holger Rune in the Australian Open fourth round and against Griekspoor in Doha last week.

“I don’t even have any emotions now because in my head, the match was done,” said Rublev on Wednesday.

“When you’re three times lucky, almost last three tournaments — Australian Open, Doha and Dubai — three tournaments in a row, it’s like, How many more Christmas presents can I have there?”

Rublev, who is trying to become the first back-to-back Dubai men’s champion since Roger Federer in 2014-15, will face Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarter-finals.

Italian world number 67 Lorenzo Sonego upset fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 for his first top-10 win of the season and fifth of his career.

He next takes on Germany No.7 seed Alexander Zverev in the last-eight stage.

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