Novak Djokovic is through to the quarterfinals in Belgrade.
After a tough three-set victory over Laslo Djere in his opening match at the Serbia Open, Novak Djokovic sounded a warning to his next opponent, fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic. The World No. 1 threw down the gauntlet to his younger compatriot, stressing that he would be ready for another battle in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic was slow off the blocks in his first match at his home tournament. He dropped serve twice as Djere pocketed the opening set and grabbed an early break in the second. However, the 34-year-old recovered to force a decider after coming within two points of defeat in the tie-break.
Djokovic struggled for fluency in the third set as well, but managed to force another tie-break, where he capitalized on a Djere forehand error at 4-3. The top-ranked Serb reeled off the final four points of the tie-break to advance and set up a clash with Kecmanovic.
Speaking after the match, Djokovic joked that he never felt stronger and was looking forward to another fight in the next round.
“Never fresher. I don’t know what to say, I can’t say anything else about this. I’m ready; I’m ready for a duel. I know that the opponent is watching this, I have never felt stronger,” he said.
The Serb pointed out that Kecmanovic has played well this year and has the potential to reach the top of the game. However, at the same time, he said he hoped Kecmanovic wouldn’t bring his A-game to the fore in their last-eight clash on Thursday.
“He has been recording the best results for the last four months,” said Djokovic. “He is young; he has the potential to reach the very top, I wish him that, but let him wait a little longer, at least tomorrow.”
Djokovic beat Kecmanovic in the Belgrade quarterfinals last year in their only previous meeting on tour.
“Laslo was better during most of the match” – Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic got out of jail against Laslo Djere.
Coming off a shock second-round defeat to young Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at Monte-Carlo, Novak Djokovic was looking to bounce back in front of his home fans in Belgrade. However, the World No. 1 came perilously close to another early exit.
His failure to convert three set points in the 12th game of the second set against Laslo Djere almost proved costly. The World No. 1 came within two points of defeat at 6-6 in the ensuing tie-break but banked on his big-match experience to pull through.
Djokovic had no qualms admitting that Djere was the better player on the night.
“One huge thank you to the audience who stayed in this cold so late. It’s hard to describe that honour and privilege when playing in front of your audience. I’m sorry that one had to lose, because it was a match for history. Laslo was better during most of the match; he dictated the match,” the 34-year-old said.