Novak Djokovic US Open 2021

Djokovic blames illness for collapse in Belgrade final

World number one Novak Djokovic lost his first final of 2022 to Russia’s Andrey Rublev, as he apologized to his home crowd and highlighted illness for his poor performance in the deciding set. 

Last week the Serbian competed in only his second tournament of 2022 as he crashed out of the Monte Carlo Masters, suffering a shock defeat to eventual finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

However in Serbia Djokovic seemed to find some form ahead of his French Open title defense in May as he recorded comeback wins over third seed Karen Khachanov and compatriots Laslo Đere and Miomir Kecmanović.

In a similar pattern, world number eight Andrey Rublev raced into a first set lead, breaking Djokovic’s serve twice, winning the first set 6-2. Before the 20-time Grand Slam winner again rallied to win the second set on a tie-break 7-6(4).

However with the momentum in his favor, Djokovic was unable to repeat his heroics from previous rounds and “ran out of gas” as he was bagel-ed 6-0 in the final set.

Speaking post-match, Djokovic discussed his lackluster display in the final set blaming is drop in performance due to a ‘recent illness’.

“I didn’t feel too tired until the end of the second set” Djokovic said afterwards. The 5-4 game was a long game and that is when I started to not feel great. I think I played well in the tie-break.

“I came out ready to fight another set, but it wasn’t [a] very pleasant thing for people to see on the court, so I am sorry for that kind of experience as I knew people wanted to see me fight and try and win. But it wasn’t to be this time.

“It’s an individual sport, when something fails, the engine can’t work. It’s a bit worrisome, I can only assume it’s because of the illness that hit me a few weeks ago. But I have to look at the positives, I’ve won three matches from a set down.”

Djokovic continued, stating he must take the positives from his week in Belgrade as he believes his return to full fitness is definitely progressing.

“I have to look at the positives. [I] played the final in front of my home crowd. It was unfortunate that in the third set I ran out of gas and couldn’t give it more of a fight. Congrats to Andrey for playing another great week. He is at the top of the men’s game and one of the best players for a reason.

“I could have easily lost in the first match, so after four tough three-set battles all I can say is I am tired. Winning the tough three-set battles before this match will serve me well for the continuation of the season.

“At least this bad feeling physically came in the fourth match rather than the first match in Monte Carlo. Things are progressing slowly but surely.”

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