Novak Djokovic suffered a dramatic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 loss to Aslan Karatsev at the Serbia Open. It was the longest ATP tour match of the 2021 season as it lasted for three-hour and 25-minutes. Karatsev gained a measure of revenge for his defeat by Djokovic in the last four of the Australian Open.
The 28th-ranked Russian saved 23 of 28 break points as he crushed Djokovic’s hopes of collecting the third title in Serbia. After clinching the Australian Open earlier this year, Djokovic has struggled to get some wins under his belt. It was a second surprise loss in as many weeks for Djokovic, who was also beaten in the last 16 of the Monte Carlo Masters by Britain’s Dan Evans.
Djokovic was critical of his performance, “From my side, I played on quite a low level, in my opinion [I had] some flashes of good quality tennis. I was fighting. I was really trying all the way [and] the crowd was great. They carried me and tried to lift me up, all the way to the end. Unfortunately, in the third, he was just the better player in the decisive moments. I had my chances, but that is sport.”
The world No.1 gave Karatsev a thumbs up at the end of the match, appreciating the Russian’s performance.
“Karatsev showed a lot of courage and that is why I gave him the thumbs up,” said Djokovic. “I felt like he deserved to win. Once the final point is done, there is never bad blood. We are rivals on the court, but I don’t hate anybody. I can’t be upset with him if he beat me. I have to be upset with myself and question why I lost the match. Whoever beats me deserves the credit and I gave him that.”
Novak Djokovic will bounce back at the French Open
Djokovic is registered for the Madrid Open but did not confirm whether he would play at the 2-9 May Masters-level event. It will be interesting to see what the Serb does ahead, considering he has had some physical issues during the Australian Open. But whatever he does, Djokovic will prioritize the French Open.
After Rafael Nadal, Djokovic will be the heavy favorite heading into the second Grand Slam of the year. The 33-year-old has never shied away from claiming that he wants to win the most Grand Slam titles.
With only one French Open title to his name, Novak Djokovic will look to add one Roland Garros title and close in on rivals Federer and Nadal.
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