The World No. 1, who is aiming to capture his fifth title at The Aviation Club in Dubai, was never troubled in a 6-3, 6-1 victory over German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber in just 59 minutes.
“It was a great performance,” said Djokovic. “I enjoyed the way I played, coming out with the right focus and tactics. Knowing Philipp beat me 12 months ago in Indian Wells, I needed to approach this match very seriously regardless of his ranking [No. 80]. He is one of the most experienced players on the tour and likes to play on the big stage, so he doesn’t falter too much.”
Djokovic, who is now 38-6 lifetime at the ATP 500-level hard-court tournament, hit 12 of his 23 total winners off his forehand wing and committed just 10 unforced errors. He won all 10 of his points at the net.
Djokovic gave 36-year-old Kohlschreiber the run around in the sixth game of the first set, breaking for a 4-2 advantage with a forehand winner. Djokovic clinched the 31-minute opener when Kohlschreiber flicked a backhand crosscourt wide.
From 5-3 in the first set, Djokovic won five straight games — including breaks of serve in the first (with a forehand winner) and third (backhand winner) games of the second set. He completed the victory with a forehand return winner.
The 32-year-old Djokovic will next play seventh-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov, who defeated Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak 6-3, 6-4 in 74 minutes. Djokovic leads Khachanov 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head series.
“I’ve had some interesting battles with him,” said Djokovic, looking ahead to the Khachanov match. “He is a great guy, a very powerful player. He is one of the guys who is a contender to be Top 5, Top 10. He is very dedicated, so hopefully I’ll be as sharp as I have been in the past two matches and start well.”
In the final match of the day, third seed Gael Monfils extended his winning streak to a career-best 11 matches after beating qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-1, 6-2 in 66 minutes. Monfils, who has won his past two tournaments at the Open Sud de France (d. Pospisil) and the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (d. Auger-Aliassime), will next face fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who improved to 8-2 lifetime against Benoit Paire after beating his eighth-seeded compatriot 6-4, 6-4 in 81 minutes.