Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), April 20
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic secured a fighting win after being a set down in his round of 16 match at the ongoing Srpska Open to advance to the quarterfinal of the men’s singles competition at the ATP 250 event on Wednesday.
The World Number 1 defeated the French teen Luca Van Assche 6-7(4), 6-3 and 6-2. After falling behind early in the third set, Djokovic recovered to win the two hours, 38 minutes-long match.
“It was not easy. This would probably rank as the slowest court, slowest conditions I have ever played in, to be honest. I could not penetrate through the court. I could not put any ball past him,” said Djokovic as quoted by ATP.
Djokovic played with more depth and put his opponent’s court coverage to the test, putting him on defence. The 35-year-old was aggressive on return, with a massively supporting crowd. He improved his season statistics to 17 wins and two losses.
The Serbian veteran dropped the opening set and had some early forehand errors. Van Assche served at 5-4 and the Serbian looked for more chances to dictate the game from baseline and earn a break. But his opponent stayed calm and captured the tiebreak in first-set.
Djokovic soon take his game to the next level, but faced a minor hindrance after getting broken in the opening game of the decider. But Djokovic answered with a break of his own and sealed a win.
“He was on every single ball for a set-and-a-half until I started to get some rhythm going. I am happy with the way I finished the match. Of course, I can always play better, but a win is a win,” said Djokovic.
Djokovic is aiming for his third title in the season after winning Adelaide Open and Australian Open. Djokovic will lock horns against either compatriot Dusan Lajovic or Frenchman Gregoire Barrere in the quarterfinal.
The 93-time tour-level title winner, Djokovic will reach 1,050 tour-level wins in this week if he reaches the final, something only four men in the Open Era have done, namely: Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,251), Rafael Nadal (1,068) and Ivan Lendl (1,068).
The youngest player in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is Van Assche, who is 18 years old. In just his ninth match at the tour-level, the teenager demonstrated consistency from the baseline and rapid pace.
The player from Brussels advanced quickly on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning three titles before moving up to the ATP Tour. Since 2016, only Van Assche, Carlos Alcaraz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, and Holger Rune have won at least three Challenger championships before turning 19 years old.