Djokovic kept waiting for a title as Rublev wins Serbia Open

Djokovic kept waiting for a title as Rublev wins Serbia Open
World No 1 Novak Djokovic was denied his first title of the year in front of his home fans in Belgrade, falling in three sets to Russia's Andrey Rublev in the final of the Serbia Open on Sunday.

Djokovic fought back from a set down for the fourth time in a week but ran out of steam in the decider as Rublev powered to a 6-2, 6-7, 6-0 victory in two hours and 29 minutes.

It was Rublev’s first win over a world No 1 and gives the 24-year-old a third tour-level title of the season – equalling the tally of Rafael Nadal – following previous victories in Marseille and Dubai in February. Rublev broke Djokovic’s serve twice in the opening set and saved five set points in the second to force a tiebreak, but Djokovic roared into a 5-2 lead and let out a roar of delight as he levelled the contest.

However, the efforts of the week then seemed to catch up with Djokovic and Rublev broke his opponent’s serve three times to storm through the decider without losing a game.

“It is big to play against you and share the court for the second time,” Rublev said to Djokovic during the trophy ceremony.

“I hope we have more battles. I feel so great here, it is a very nice city. It feels really special. I want to say a big thanks to all the spectators for supporting all the players all week. To see full crowds again is special for all of us.”

The Belgrade event was only Djokovic's third of 2022 after he was deported from Melbourne - and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title - after entering the country unvaccinated.

However, the 20-time Grand Slam winner was let down by his lack of physical form.

The 34-year-old, who lost in the quarter-finals in Dubai and suffered a shock second-round defeat in Monte Carlo, battled past Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov in three sets before the court time caught up with the top seed against Rublev.

Djokovic got off to a bad start, dropping serve twice, to lose the first set after have an hour.

Buoyed by the support of the 8,000 crowd, Djokovic fought back in a marathon second set which lasted just over an hour, levelling in the tiebreak despite wasting six set points, before running out of steam in the third.

Rublev captured his third title of the season, days after blasting Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players as "complete discrimination".

Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players from this summer's Grand Slam tournament due to the invasion of Ukraine.

It was a decision condemned by the ATP and WTA as well as a host of players including Djokovic who described the sanction as "crazy".
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