Novak Djokovic gives his verdict as he narrowly avoids big upset in Belgrade
Novak Djokovic fought back from a set and a break down to beat compatriot Laslo Djere in their second round meeting at the Serbian Open.
The world number one trailed 4-3 in the second set having dropped the first but staged a dramatic resurgence against his fellow Serb 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4).
It took three hours and 21 minutes for Djokovic to scratch past Djere who made a strong start to the match.
“I liked the way I managed to physically hold on and push through and survive a thriller of almost three-and-a-half hours,” Djokovic said post-match.
“That’s the positive difference compared to Monte Carlo, where I just wasn’t able to physically sustain the third set. Today, that was different. If there are positives, I think that’s the one.”
“Playing an official match in front of your crowd… you feel the great support, which I had, and I’m very grateful for that. But at the same time, it’s not simple.
“Even after so many years of experience and playing many times in front of the home crowd, you still feel nervous.”
Djokovic will next face another compatriot, Miomir Kecmanovic, in the quarter-finals after his 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) win over Australian John Millman.
Djere surged through the first set against Djokovic and also seemingly took total control of the match with a break in the seventh game of the second.
But Djokovic broke straight back and managed to force a decider, despite needing six set points to eventually win the second set in a tie-break.
The players traded breaks at the start of the third, before Djokovic staved off two break points in game eight.
The No 1 seed saw two break points come and go in a marathon 11th game.
But he got the job done in the deciding breaker, as Djere missed two simple forehands and Djokovic secured victory on his first match point.
Playing in just his third tournament this year Djokovic understandably looked rusty. He struggled to find his level for much of his maiden tour-level meeting with Djere, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion dug deep to clinch a win and keep his hopes of a third title at the ATP 250 event alive at the Novak Tennis Center named in his honour.
After a surprise quarter-final exit to unheralded Czech Jiri Vesely in Dubai in February, Djokovic returned at the Monte Carlo Masters last week but lost to eventual runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a first match upset for the World No 1.
Rediscovering that winning feeling
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 20, 2022
Djokovic might be hoping to get an edge on Rafael Nadal in the quest for the French Open title, as he has at least hit the clay before the Spaniard..
Stefanos Tsitsipas reveals what it means to be ‘In Flow’
Stefanos Tsitsipas said: ‘It felt like I was in a cage and someone decided to unlock the cage and I suddenly felt free.’
Australian Open triumph sweetened by Aryna Sabalenka’s semi-final heartache
The Belarusian is the first grand slam singles champion playing under a neutral flag.
Elena Rybakina rues missed chances in Australian Open final defeat
Elena Rybakina was the first woman to take a set off Aryna Sabalenka this season but couldn’t match her intensity for two and a half hours.
Aryna Sabalenka dedicates Australian Open trophy to her ‘crazy’ team
Aryna Sabalenka says her team deserve the Australian Open trophy more than she does.
Aryna Sabalenka proves doubters wrong with emotional Grand Slam triumph
Aryna Sabalenka found another level to win brutal Australian Open final.
Aryna Sabalenka goes from underarm serving and 428 double faults in 2022 to mentality monster
Aryna Sabalenka has gone from underarm serving to coming up clutch in big moments.
Aryna Sabalenka powers her way to Australian Open title with impressive win over Elena Rybakina
Aryna Sabalenka is a Grand Slam champion!
Elena Rybakina’s coach Stefano Vukov under fire: ‘I hope she finds a coach who speaks and treats her with respect’
Stefano Vukov hasn’t made too many friends with his behaviour during matches.
Third time lucky for Alfie Hewett as he sets sights on being ‘figurehead’ for wheelchair tennis
The 25-year-old from Norfolk won his maiden Australian Open wheelchair singles title.
Novak Djokovic’s family ‘upset’ over flag uproar as Australian Open chief urges them ‘to be really careful’
“The family were very good. They were upset that it was taken that way.”