Novak Djokovic ‘rose in Belgrade’, says tennis pundit as he highlights ‘turning point’ in world No 1’s season

Novak Djokovic celebrates

Novak Djokovic heads to the French Open as one of the favourites and tennis commentator Alex Corretja believes his comebacks during the early stages of the Serbia Open were key to his return to form.

Having missed the bulk of the hard-court season at the start of the year due to his unvaccinated status, Djokovic made a stuttering start to his clay-court campaign as he lost his opener at the Monte Carlo Masters.

And he must have thought “here we go again” during the first few rounds in Serbia as he looked out of sorts during his first couple of matches against compatriots Laslo Djere and Miomr Kecmanovic, but he dug deep and beat the former 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) while Kecmanovic was defeated 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner also came back from a set down to beat Karen Khachanov in the semi-final before going down in three sets against Andrey Rublev in the final.

Djokovic then looked more comfortable at the Madrid Open before losing in the semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz while he went all the way at the Italian Open last week.

Next up is the French Open, where he is the defending champion, and former world No 2 and Eurosport analyst Corretja believes his run in Belgrade was a watershed moment.

“It wasn’t Rome, we have to go back to Belgrade. I think he rose in Belgrade. That was the turning point in his season, when he came back against Kecmanovic and Djere. That is the moment when Novak showed me that he is ready for the French Open,” the Spaniard told Telegraf in an exclusive interview.

“Despite the defeat in Madrid by Alcaraz, I realised that he was ready. I don’t want to reveal private conversations with his coaches, but I was one hundred percent sure that he would reach the final or win the title in Rome.

“Rome is just proof that he has found a way to play on clay and that he will be ready for the French Open. He is coming to Paris with great confidence because he is very close to his best form.

“I’m not saying that he has to win the French Open, but I think he understands the game on clay better now than before. I am impressed that, after retaining first place and winning so many trophies, he changes his game and adapts in that way. He is definitely one of the favourites in Paris.”

Djokovic, Alacaraz and 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal are the favourites to be the last man standing at Roland Garros this year.

“He is in a great position before coming to the tournament. I’m not sure if I should call him the exclusive favourite, because it depends on whether Nadal will get into his rhythm,” Corretja said.

“Alcaraz should be placed a little below them, because he is younger and we don’t know how he will cope with two weeks of play and five-set matches. Novak still deserves credit to be the favourite, as we speak.”