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Novak Djokovic to kick off Belgrade campaign against countryman Laslo Djere
The No. 1-ranked Serb has won three ATP titles in his hometown of Belgrade—the Serbian Open twice in 2009 and 2011, and the Belgrade Open in 2021.
Published Apr 19, 2022
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will kick off his Serbia Open campaign on Wednesday against Laslo Djere, after his countryman defeated Hamad Medjedovic, 6-4, 7-5.
Djere, who idolized Djokovic growing up, will be playing him for the first time.
“I’ve always looked up to Djokovic when I was a kid,” the 26-year-old said. “The change has been incredible in the last couple of years when I had the opportunity to play and practice with him at tournaments. I really respect him for everything that he has achieved. Now I have to learn to see him as my opponent tomorrow.
“He has been an excellent motivator for all players from Serbia. He showed us all the way and that everything is possible. Had has made an admirable impact.
"But now I have to forget all that and focus on the upcoming match.”
Djere has two career Top 10 wins, both on clay, and both against No. 8s in 2019—Dominic Thiem in Rio de Janeiro and Juan Martin del Potro in Madrid.
But a win over Djokovic would be a huge step up—not only is Djokovic a 20-time Grand Slam champion spending his record 366th career week at No. 1 on the ATP rankings, but he’s also brought out some of his very best tennis on home soil over the years.
Djokovic has won three ATP titles in Belgrade—the Serbian Open twice in 2009 and 2011, and the Belgrade Open last year (there were two ATP events held in Belgrade in 2021—the Serbian Open in April, where Djokovic reached the semifinals, and the Belgrade Open in May, the week before Roland Garros, where he won the title).
Djokovic is 14-2 at ATP events in Belgrade, as well as 16-3 in Davis Cup matches in Belgrade—add to that a 4-0 record in Davis Cup in other cities in Serbia, and he’s up to an incredible 34-5 career record in tour-level matches in his home country.
And it’s no secret that Djokovic’s immense crowd support at home lifts him.
“Some of my greatest career achievements and the best tennis seasons I had in the past came as a result of the Davis Cup victory in front of spectators in Belgrade in 2011,” the 34-year-old said. “Somehow, local tennis fans always knew to recognize the moment when both myself and other players needed encouragement and a boost.
“Last year, it happened ahead of Roland Garros. I had never before played a tournament in the week ahead of Roland Garros, but last year I decided to do just that, because it was Belgrade and I needed the feeling that the audience is the wind beneath my wings. It came true, I won the tournament, and it turned out I made a good decision ahead of the French Open.”
Last week, in his first tournament since February, Djokovic lost his opening match in Monte Carlo, falling to an in-form Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in three sets—the Spaniard ended up going all the way to his first career final at the Masters 1000 event.
“I’m trying to use every moment to improve my game and my physical shape because that’s something that needs to be done for this and the other clay-court tournaments that follow. Clay is the hardest surface to play on in our sport.
“I was not fully ready for Monte Carlo and I knew that before the tournament started. However, I need match practice and this is the surface that requires a lot of time spent on the court during training sessions, and even more during matches.
“I hope to play more matches in Belgrade than in Monte Carlo.”