Belgrade (Serbia), April 24 (IANS) World No 8 Andrey Rublev clinched the Serbia Open title after beating World No 1 Novak Djokovic in the final, here on Sunday.
In a hard-fought summit clash, Rublev dug deep against Djokovic as he hit with relentless power and intensity to outlast the home favourite 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 at the ATP 250 clay-court event.
The 24-year-old saved five set points in the second set to force a tie-break and while he was unable to prevent Djokovic from levelling the match, Rublev regrouped in the decider as he looked the fitter of the two to triumph after two hours and 29 minutes.
After this loss, Djokovic now holds a 37-6 record in Serbia, having lifted the trophy at the Serbia Open in 2009 and 2011 and at the Belgrade Open last season.
“It is big to play against you and share the court for the second time,” Rublev said to Djokovic during the trophy ceremony.
“I hope we have more battles. I feel so great here, it is a very nice city. It feels really special. I want to say a big thanks to all the spectators for supporting all the players all week. To see full crowds again is special for all of us,” he added.
It was Rublev’s third tour-level title of the season and he has now equalled Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the most tour-level titles in 2022, having also clinched crowns in Marseille and Dubai in February. With his maiden victory over a World No 1, the World No 8 has levelled his ATP Head2Head series against Serbian Djokovic at 1-1, gaining revenge for his defeat at the ATP Finals last season.
Rublev arrived in Belgrade off the back of disappointing ATP Masters 1000 performances in Miami and Monte Carlo, where he lost in the second round and third round, respectively. However, he found his top form this week, dropping just one set en route to the title as he also eliminated Czech Jiri Lehecka, Japan’s Taro Daniel and Italian Fabio Fognini with heavy-hitting performances.
On the other hand, the 34-year-old Djokovic, who lost in the quarter-finals in Dubai and suffered a shock second-round defeat against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Monte Carlo, was competing in his third event of the season as he aimed to clinch his maiden title of the year against Rublev.