Novak Djokovic salutes ‘best atmosphere’ as he reaches the Serbian Open final

Delight for Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic reached his first final of 2022 as he saw off Karen Khachanov in a tightly contested semi-final of the Serbia Open.

Playing in only his third tournament of the year after missed several big events due to his refusal to take a Covid vaccine, the world No 1 beat his Russian rival 4-6 6-1 6-2 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Djokovic has been forced to battle in all of his matches in Belgrade, as he looks to get back on track after so many issues have disrupted his progress in recent months.

Now he will get a chance to lift a trophy on home soil, with Russia’s Andrey Rublev waiting for him in the final.

“As soon as the second set started I was just feeling the ball, particularly the backhand which was not working in the first set,” said Djokovic.

“The second and third sets were the best two sets of the season for me. I used the crowd energy which was phenomenal, probably the best atmosphere that I played in my entire life.”

Djokovic’s battling run in Belgrade is certain to boost his confidence after an early exit at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month and he admitted he is expecting to take some time before he gets back to his very best.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin suggested Djokovic’s uncertain form is not a surprise, as she suggested he will need time to peak ahead of the French Open next month.

“We can’t under-estimate the emotional roller-coaster he [Djokovic] has been on,” she told Eurosport France’s ‘DiP Impact’ podcast.

“Not just the Australian Open and not just all the effort he made to try and win his 21st Grand Slam at the 2021 US Open either [and which would’ve seen him hold all four majors].

“But you can also go back to the US Open in 2020 when he was disqualified. From there, he then had the tough [final] defeat [to Rafa Nadal] at Roland Garros [in the same year].

“Then he had the abdominal injury and his somewhat miraculous win at the Australian Open in 2021.

“You’ve got to imagine what all that must have been like. Even if your name is Novak Djokovic, you’re still a human being. He can’t have gone through all that calmly.”