World No 1 Novak Djokovic has sent a warning to Andrey Rublev ahead of their clash in the Serbia Open final, having found good form in his native Belgrade. The Serb came from behind to dominate Russia’s Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday and reach his first showpiece clash of the year.
It represents a drastic turnaround after disappointing exits from the Dubai Tennis Championships and Monte-Carlo Masters. That’s not to mention his deportation from Melbourne before he had a chance to defend his Australian Open crown in January, but Djokovic is in a better place ahead of Sunday’s Serbia Open crescendo.
“I already feel comfortable [on the court], I played three sets in all three matches here, so I have already run a lot to reach a certain form,” said Djokovic after his semi-final win, per Russian outlet Novosti. “Maybe that [lack of form] would have been felt three or four days ago in my game, but not now. I hope that I will show that tomorrow, in front of this audience, and return the trophy to Serbia.”
The soon-to-be 35-year-old has won the Serbia Open on two occasions (2009 and 2011) but suffered a semi-final exit in 2021 after it was removed from the calendar for eight years. His return to the final could be a positive omen for the remainder of the clay campaign, with Djokovic hoping to defend his French Open crown in a month’s time.
READ MORE: Andy Murray to ‘defend’ Wimbledon decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players
“I have said before that clay is a demanding surface, it asks for as many matches as possible on it so that the player can break through the psychic wall that exists on it,” added the 20-time Grand Slam winner. “It is really a big challenge to get back in shape, it is difficult to reach the maximum, and it is easy to lose it. But, on the wings of the audience, I succeeded. This is the best audience in the world, it feels best when I play here.”
Djokovic will face Rublev on Sunday after the latter hammered Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2 in the other semi-final. The veteran will target a maiden title of 2022 in the hopes of sparking change for the remainder of the year, while his foe is out to prove the recent turn in form is a flash in the pan.