Novak Djokovic made a winning return to his home city on Tuesday, overcoming an early challenge from Mats Moraing to defeat the lucky loser, 6-2, 7-6 (4) at the Belgrade Open.

"It was a very good start against a player I'd never faced before with a big serve and big shots," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "He was going for some shots today that were amazing."

"It's a good win, we move on, and hopefully the next match will be even better."

The world No. 1 last played in Belgrade at the Serbia Open in April, where he bowed out to an in-form Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals, but faced far fewer issues against his German opposition to advance in 100 minutes on Center Court.

"It is always very special to play in Serbia," he told "It’s quite unusual to have two tournaments so close to each other. This tournament came up as a surprise to all of us. I think the success of a nation in tennis depends a lot on the amount of tournaments that are played in that country."

Djokovic's clay-court campaign has improved with each tournament, shaking off an early exit at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to ultimately finish runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the Internazionali BNL d'Italiahaving pulled out of the Mutua Madrid Open.

"I was pleased with the way I played in Rome," Djokovic said. "I came out and played almost three hours with Rafa on Sunday and I felt I could go on physically for a few more hours. That was something that really satisfied me, knowing that I’m fit and ready to battle in best of five, which is coming up in Paris, where I really want to try to play my best tennis."


With 18 Grand Slam titles already to his name, the Serb, who turned 34 on Saturday, is doing all he can to be in optimal form to chase a second trophy at Roland Garros, where, last fall, he reached the final for the first time since 2016.

"Here it’s about matchplay and it’s about working on certain specific details in my game that hopefully I’ll be able to tweak them and to make them perfectly tuned in Paris," Djokovic said. "It’s a two-week long event, it’s clay, it’s very demanding in every aspect. But I’m happy with the way I’ve been feeling on the court and playing, so hopefully I can go all the way there."

Faced with the unenviable task of toppling the top seed was Moraing, who initially fell in the final round of qualifying to Andrej Martin but made the most of his late entry into the main draw—only the second of his career—with his first ATP main-draw victory over Egor Gerasimov on Monday.

Standing 6'6", the 28-year-old kept things close to start but soon found himself overwhelmed by Djokovic's superior consistency, ceding breaks in the fifth and seventh games to drop the opening set in under 40 minutes.

The reigning Australian Open champion continued his momentum early in the second set with another break of serve but was soon on the back foot as Moraing blasted a backhand winner en route to leveling at two games apiece, and continued to battle when Djokovic looked to reclaim the initiative, saving three break points in the following game.

Djokovic last won Roland Garros in 2016, and finished runner-up in Paris last fall (Getty Images).

Djokovic last won Roland Garros in 2016, and finished runner-up in Paris last fall (Getty Images).


After a change of shirt, Djokovic soon stabilized as the pair traded straightforward service holds until 5-5, when the Serb scored a break to love with a forehand into the open court.

Though Moraing made a brave last stand, breaking Djokovic as he served for the match, the world No. 1 was undaunted, maintaining his lead through the ensuing tiebreaker to close out the match in two sets.

"I was twice a break up in the second set and maybe could have finished the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting and playing courageous, bold tennis. It's not easy to get the rhythm when you play someone like him today."

Next Stop: A Quarterfinal with Coria

Up next for Djokovic is Argentine alternate Federico Coria. The younger brother of 2004 French Open finalist Guillermo Coria, the 29-year-old Federico kicked off Center Court action with a straight-set win over Pablo Cuevas.