Alex de Minaur's tough run of form continued as he let a set lead slip to lose to Jeremy Chardy at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.

De Minaur, the ninth seed in Dubai, won his first tournament of 2021 in Antalya in January.

However, the Australian's results since then have rapidly declined and his latest loss - 2-6 6-3 6-4 to Chardy - means he is 3-5 since his title in Turkey.

De Minaur seized his first two break points against Chardy, yet the next four came and went while his opponent proved clinical, taking his only two opportunities and snatching victory.

The Frenchman, who reached the semi-finals in Antalya and again at an ATP 250 event in Melbourne prior to the Australian Open, said: "I've played good since the beginning of the year.

"It is always easier to play when you are confident. If you play a bad set, it is never finished. I stayed focused and tried to find a solution."

It was not a successful start to the week for De Minaur's compatriots either, as John Millman was among three other Aussies to crash out.

Christopher O'Connell missed the chance to set up a meeting with Dominic Thiem as Lloyd Harris advanced, and qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori saw off Jordan Thompson ahead of facing Andrey Rublev.

Marton Fucsovics was back in action after handing a walkover to Rublev, the same man who had previously beaten him to the Rotterdam Open title, in Qatar last week.

He defeated Vasek Pospisil in three sets, while there was a milestone win for Richard Gasquet, another man unable to line up against Rublev in Doha.

A 6-4 6-2 win over Marco Cecchinato was his 550th on the ATP Tour, making him only the sixth active player to that mark after the 'big four' of Roger Federer (1,243), Rafael Nadal (1,008), Novak Djokovic (943) and Andy Murray (677) and Spain's Fernando Verdasco (552).

"I am feeling great here," Gasquet said. "I know this court well. I played well last year. It is a fast court. I like to play on it.

"It is important to serve well and it was a great match. I started well, feeling confident and winning the first set, and then I played better in the second set."

Dan Evans is putting friendship aside after earning a blockbuster showdown against returning superstar Roger Federer at the Qatar Open.

Federer has not played competitively since his semi-final exit at the 2020 Australian Open – the 20-time grand slam champion having undergone knee surgery last year.

But the 39-year-old Swiss great will make his long-awaited comeback against Evans in Doha on Wednesday.

Evans – who has been practicing with Federer – outlasted Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 1-6 6-2 in the round of 32 at the ATP 250 tournament.

"We obviously practised for [the] past two weeks [in Dubai], and I thought he was playing pretty well," Evans said. "We played plenty of sets. It was competitive. But it's all very different when you get on the match court.

"It will be a lot different tomorrow. It's going to be at night, as well, so a little slower. So we'll see how the match goes."

Second seed Federer – a record three-time Qatar Open champion – watched from the stands on Tuesday and Evans added: "He obviously has seen a lot of my game the past few weeks, so I guess I would say it was more out of boredom.

"He's probably [was] waiting for his practice [more] than scouting out what's happening on the court. Let's put it down to that."

Elsewhere, sixth seed David Goffin topped Filip Krajinovic 6-4 6-4 en route to the last 16 but three-time slam champion Stan Wawrinka was stunned 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 by qualifier Lloyd Harris.

Marton Fucsovics, Vasek Pospisil and Malek Jaziri also advanced through to the next round.

At the Open 13 Province, three-time champion and French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrated his first ATP Tour victory since 2019.

Tsonga – hampered by injuries, including left knee surgery –rallied from the brink to see off Feliciano Lopez 3-6 6-4 7-5 in Marseille on Tuesday.

"This is probably one of the best victories of my career, because it was tough for me to play tennis. I had so much pain for so many months," Tsonga said in an on-court interview. "Today, I won one match. That was one of my goals for these few weeks… I’m happy like a kid."

Next up is fourth-seeded countryman Ugo Humbert, who upstaged sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-4.

Meanwhile, Federico Coria and Federico Delbonis were among the victors at the Chile Open.

Andrey Rublev was pushed hard by Jeremy Chardy on Friday but eventually secured his 18th successive ATP 500 win to set up a semi-final meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rotterdam Open.

Chardy managed to save match points in the second set, as Rublev wobbled at the crucial moment, but the Russian got the job done 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

The pair were on court for just under two hours and 40 minutes and racked up a considerable number of winners, with Rublev's 44 eight more than the Frenchman.

His 18-match winning streak in ATP 500 events has only been bettered on five previous occasions since 2009, all of which were achieved by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, who holds the record of 28 successive victories.

If he is to get any closer to Federer's remarkable haul, Rublev will have to go beyond Tsitsipas, but Friday's match took plenty out of him.

"I will try to do as much as I can to be ready for [the semi-final]… Stefanos also had two tough matches [this week]," said Rublev.

"He had three sets [on Thursday] and today he had three sets. Now he has to play doubles. It is not easy."

As Rublev alluded to, Tsitsipas certainly did not have it all his own way against another Russian, Karen Khachanov, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Tsitsipas also had to contend with being 3-1 down in the third set – but Rublev knows all about the Greek's ability to come back from the brink having lost to him in last year's ATP Finals despite having match point.

"He [Khachanov] was playing great tennis and I wasn't sure if I would be able to compete," Tsitsipas said after the contest.

"I had an amazing 5-0 lead in the second set and that brought a lot of confidence into my game. We had great rallies and the quality of tennis was excellent. You need to stay as calm as possible in three-setters. I have won a lot in the past and with experience, it gives me an idea of how to play in these tight moments."

Borna Coric and Marton Fucsovics will go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Croatian Coric came through in straight sets against Kei Nishikori, though it was by no means a straightforward victory as he was pushed to tie-breaks in both sets, winning 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4).

Fucsovics saw off Tommy Paul 6-4 6-3 to reach the last four.

Novak Djokovic began his quest for a ninth Australian Open title with a convincing straight-sets win over Jeremy Chardy.

The reigning champion and world number one looked in ruthless form as he won 6-3 6-1 6-2 in a little over an hour and a half.

Djokovic, who beat Dominic Thiem in a five-set thriller in the 2020 final, was in an authoritative mood as he took the first two sets in just 56 minutes.

Chardy, whose best grand slam result was reaching the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2013, offered some valiant resistance in game five of the third set before Djokovic eventually claimed the crucial double break.

The 17-time major winner eased through the final two games in front of a jubilant crowd, finishing with back-to-back aces to set up a second-round match with Frances Tiafoe.

"It makes my heart full to see the crowd in a stadium again," said Djokovic, who has reached at least the semi-final stage in seven of his previous nine majors.

"There's an ongoing love affair between me and the Rod Laver Arena. It's definitely one of the most special courts on the tennis tour around the world and my most successful. Every time I step on this court, I relive those memories."

Djokovic's preparations for the tournament were overshadowed by a row over quarantine conditions for players arriving in Australia, the 33-year-old having lobbied Tennis Australia and state authorities to loosen restrictions for 72 players who had to spend two weeks in their hotel rooms.

There was little about his performance on Monday to suggest any distractions from the task at hand, although he bristled a little in the on-court interview when it was put to him he had been "frustrated" in recent weeks.

"I'm just really glad we're free, playing tennis, back in Australia," he then said. "It's a happy place for us, a happy slam."

 

Data Slam: Djokovic at his clinical best

Djokovic dropped just nine points on serve and hit 41 winners to just 11 unforced errors, sending down nine aces and one double fault.

Such imperious play left Chardy, who had lost all 13 of their previous encounters, with little chance of an upset.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 41/11
Chardy – 20/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 9/1
Chardy – 3/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 6/13
Chardy – 0/0

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