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Djokovic comes through marathon battle with Djere to reach quarters in Belgrade

The world No 1 bounced back from his early defeat in Monte-Carlo by winning a three-hour, 20-minute battle

Novak Djokovic clay 2022 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

World No 1 Novak Djokovic ended his losing streak in dramatic fashion on Wednesday as he came through an epic battle with fellow Serb Laslo Djere, claiming a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory in the second round of the Serbia Open.

The 34-year-old, beaten in the quarter-finals in Dubai and then in his first match in Monte-Carlo last week, struggled early on but battled his way through after a bruising three-hour, 20-minute battle. He’ll meet Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the last eight.

The 20-times Grand Slam winner was two points from defeat in the second-set tiebreak and needed another tiebreak in the third to avoid what would have been his first loss to another Serbian player since he lost to Janko Tipsarevic in Madrid in 2012.

Beaten in his first match in Monte-Carlo by the eventual runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, having only played one other event so far in 2022 due to not being vaccinated against Covid-19, Djokovic went home to Serbia looking for a boost to his confidence.

In just his fifth match of 2022, having missed the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami due to the fact he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, Djokovic began slowly, broken twice in the opening set by the world No 50.

Djere’s hammer of a forehand was a threat throughout and Djokovic made life difficult for himself by serving at just 43 percent.

Djere broke to lead 4-3 in the second set and led 40-15 on serve only to falter, allowing Djokovic back in. The 20-times Grand Slam champion had three set points at 6-5 but couldn’t take them and missed two more when he was pegged back from 6-4 to 6-6 in the tiebreak.

But he finally took his sixth set point to force a decider.

Against Davidovich Fokina in Monte-Carlo, Djokovic had faded alarmingly in the third set, with coach Goran Ivanisevic later revealing that he had been ill in the build-up to the event.

When he broke serve in the first game of the decider, the momentum was with Djokovic but he handed the break straight back.

Djokovic had two break points at 5-5 in a game that contained 22 points but he didn’t let it bother him and he held his nerve to win the final-set tiebreak 7-4, Djere left to rue a simple forehand that would have given him a 5-3 lead.

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