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After another first-set loss, Novak Djokovic forces a decider in Belgrade final—but Andrey Rublev wins it, 6-0
It's just the 13th time in his career that Djokovic has been on the wrong end of a bagel set.
Published Apr 24, 2022
INTERVIEW: Andrey Rublev after his win over Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic lost the first set of all four matches he played this week in Belgrade. But it wasn’t an unprecedented predicament for the world No. 1.
At last year’s US Open, where the Serb was vying to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since Rod Laver in 1969, Djokovic began a stretch of five consecutive matches in which he dropped the opening set. In the third round (against Kei Nishikori), fourth round (against Jenson Brooksby), quarterfinals (against Matteo Berrettini) and semifinals (against Alexandr Zverev), he managed to win in the end. The best-of-five set format certainly helped the 20-time Grand Slam champion, who had ample time to rediscover his form—and to give his opponents more time to think about the position they were in.
So when Djokovic, just three sets from history, lost the first set of the final to Daniil Medvedev, there wasn’t much to panic about—until it became clear that Novak just didn’t have it that day, succumbing to the Russian and the choking pressure in a straight-sets loss.
At the Serbia Open, Djokovic—just 2-2 in 2022—rallied to win from a set down against Laslo Djere in his opener, against Miomir Kecmanovic in the quarterfinals, and against Karen Khachanov in the semifinals.
So when Djokovic, just two sets from the title, lost the first set of the final to Andrey Rublev, 6-2, there wasn’t much to panic about—even after Novak failed to break Rublev on a pair of set points at 5-4, and another three at 6-5. That's because the crowd favorite hunkered down in the tiebreak, shook off his five missed chances, and pushed this hard-hitting final to a decider.
But as it turned out—like at the US Open—Djokovic couldn't overcome the initial deficit at the very end. Not only did the third set not go his way, it went all the way to Rublev, who won the match 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0. It's just the 13th time in his career that Djokovic has been on the wrong end of a bagel set.
Much as Djokovic's opponents forced him to raise his game this week in Belgrade, Rublev took his game to another level once Novak pushed back. Hopefully it's not the last time we'll see them trade haymakers on clay this season.
More on this final to come from Steve Tignor.