World number one Novak Djokovic has issued a warning to Andrey Rublev ahead of their Serbia Open final clash after finding good form in his native Belgrade. The Serb came from behind to edge Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday and reach her first showpiece clash of the year.
This represents a drastic turnaround after disappointing outings from the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Monte-Carlo Masters. Not to mention being kicked out of Melbourne before he had a chance to defend his Australian Open crown in January, but Djokovic is in a better position ahead of Sunday’s Serbian Open crescendo.
“I already feel comfortable [on the court]I’ve played three sets in the three matches here, so I’ve already run a lot to get to some form,” Djokovic said after his semi-final victory, according to the Russian outlet. Novosti. “Maybe [lack of form] would have been felt three or four days ago in my game, but not now. I hope I will show it tomorrow, in front of this audience, and return the trophy to Serbia.”
The future 35-year-old won the Serbia Open twice (2009 and 2011) but suffered a semi-final exit in 2021 after being off the schedule for eight years. His return to the final could bode well for the rest of the clay-court campaign, with Djokovic hoping to defend his French Open crown in a month.
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“I have already said that clay is a demanding surface, it requires as many matches as possible on it so that the player can break through the psychic wall that exists on it,” added the 20-time Grand Slam winner. “It’s really a big challenge to get back in shape, it’s hard to reach the maximum, and it’s easy to lose it. But, on the wings of the public, I succeeded. That’s the best audience in the world, I feel better when I play here.”
Djokovic will face Rublev on Sunday after the latter hammered Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2 in the other semi-final. The veteran will be aiming for a first title in 2022 in hopes of sparking change for the rest of the year, while his nemesis is out to prove the recent change in shape is a flash in the pan.