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Djokovic closes in on home-town Belgrade triumph as Rublev awaits in Serbia Open final

By John Skilbeck

Belgrade, April 24: Novak Djokovic will chase the first title of his chaotic season when he tackles Andrey Rublev in the Serbia Open final on Sunday (April 24).

Playing in his home city of Belgrade, world number one Djokovic will be expected by many to carry off the trophy for a third time.

He scored a 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory over Russian Karen Khachanov in the first of Saturday's semi-finals.

Djokovic has made a habit of losing opening sets this week, rebounding from early deficits to beat fellow Serbians Laslo Dere and Miomir Kecmanovic on his way through to the last four, where it happened again.

The 34-year-old was able to recover and improve his career win-loss record to 13-2 at the clay-court tournament.

Djokovic, who has been prevented from playing events in Australia and the United States this year after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, believes he is gradually building up form and match fitness.

He said in an on-court interview: "I'm already feeling quite comfortable on the courts. I think the three matches that went all three sets gave me enough of the match play.

"I was running enough in order to be at my optimum best. I don't think the lack of matches now plays a role. Maybe it was the case three or four days ago, not today.

"But in terms of the audience, of course that's going to be a huge motivation boost for me, so I'm going to enjoy the crowd's support as much as I can and hopefully bring the title to Serbia."

Rublev, another Russian, beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2 6-2 in the second semi-final, saying it had been his best performance of the week.

The world number eight is relishing playing Djokovic, saying: "It's going to be fun. Tomorrow I have nothing to lose, I can go out and enjoy it. He plays at home, so it will be his moment. The best I can do is fight and try to do my best."

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Story first published: Sunday, April 24, 2022, 0:20 [IST]
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