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Resilient Djokovic recovers to beat Kecmanovic in Belgrade
Slowly but surely, the world No 1 is finding his form after a tumultuous start to 2022
World No 1 Novak Djokovic took a big step forward in his progression on Thursday as he came from behind to beat compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Serbia Open.
The 34-year-old trailed by a set and a break at 2-1 in the second but bounced back superbly to beat the in-form Kecmanovic. He’ll play Karen Khachanov or Thiago Monteiro in the last four.
It was not vintage Djokovic but a day after he beat Laslo Djere in a three-hour, 21-minute marathon, the 20-times Grand Slam showed more resilience and improved fitness as he claimed just his fourth win of the year, having missed the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami due to the fact he’s not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Kecmanovic starts strongly to take opener
For a long time, though, it looked as if Djokovic would suffer his first loss to a fellow Serb since he lost to Janko Tipsarevic in Madrid in 2012.
When they met at the same stage of last year’s event, Djokovic won easily, 6-1, 6-3. But right from the start it was clear this match was going to be very different, as Kecmanovic broke Djokovic in the first game.
The 22-year-old Kecmanovic, appearing in his fifth straight ATP Tour quarter-final, maintained his advantage throughout and in fact, Djokovic had to dig deep to save himself from going a second break down, his second serve proving to be especially vulnerable.
But one break proved to be enough for Kecmanovic to take the opening set after 50 minutes, having not faced a single break point against the world’s best returner.
Djokovic digs deep, finds his way
Djokovic had found himself in a similar position against Laslo Djere the previous day and battled back to win a three-hour, 21-minute epic.
But Kecmanovic is a man in form, having made the quarters in Indian Wells and Miami and carried his form over to the clay.
Djokovic saved a break point in the opening game of the second set and Kecmanovic then had to save his first two of the match as he held for 1-1.
Kecmanovic then forced another break point on the Djokovic serve and took it to go up 2-1. Typically, though, Djokovic dug deep and snatch the break straight back and that game proved to be the turning point.
One more break gave him the second set and he pulled away in the third for a morale-boosting victory as he looks to regain top form in time for Roland-Garros.