Showing the grit and determination that has taken him to 20 Grand Slam titles and 366 career weeks at No. 1 (and counting), Novak Djokovic battled back from the brink of defeat to get his first clay-court win of the year on Wednesday, surviving Laslo Djere in a three-hour, 21-minute thriller in his opening match in Belgrade, 2-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4).

It was his 129th career comeback from a set down—he’s now 129-164 after dropping the first set, an incredible .440 winning percentage from that situation, which is actually the second-best winning percentage in the Open Era after Rod Laver, who was .500 (92-92).

With Djokovic still working his way back to his best—this was just his fifth match of the year—Djere took full advantage and had all kinds of chances to win in straight sets, storming through the first set and eventually leading by a set and a break at 6-2, 4-3. After getting broken in that game he also had a break point with Djokovic serving at 4-4 in the second set, and was even two points away at 6-all in the second set tie-break.

Even though Djokovic dug out of all of those holes, there was more danger in the third set—he fought off break points serving at 3-4 in the decider, served to stay in the match at 4-5, and was even down a late mini-break in the third set tie-break at 4-3.

But Djere missed a forehand putaway into the net to lose that mini-break and the momentum swung one last time, as Djokovic won the next three points to close it out.

With his win over Djere, Djokovic is now 35-5 in his career in tour-level matches in Serbia, and 26-4 against fellow Serbians.

With his win over Djere, Djokovic is now 35-5 in his career in tour-level matches in Serbia, and 26-4 against fellow Serbians.


With his victory over Djere, Djokovic has now won 32 of his last 35 tour-level matches in Serbia, a stretch that dates back 15 years to April of 2007.

In his career, he’s now 35-5 in tour-level matches in his home country—broken down that includes 15-2 at ATP events in Serbia (all in Belgrade) and 20-3 in Davis Cup matches in Serbia (a combination of ties in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kraljevo and Nis).

And up next for the world No. 1 will be another Serb, No. 38-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic, who defeated Australia’s John Millman earlier in the day, 6-4, 7-6 (5).

The two have played just once before, and coincidentally it was in the same match last year—Djokovic beat Kecmanovic in the quarters of the 2021 Serbia Open, 6-1, 6-3.

The 22-year-old was asked what he thought of the upcoming quarterfinal match, when he didn’t know if it would be Djokovic or Djere across the net.

“Laslo is good on clay, but Nole is still Nole. You have to play good tennis against him all the time,” he said. “Whoever my opponent is, I’ll have to be ready for the match.”