'Every time Novak Djokovic snuck back in, I would take...', says top coach

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'Every time Novak Djokovic snuck back in, I would take...', says top coach

In 2021, to make up for the cancellation of some major tournaments, the ATP schedule has brought big tennis back to Belgrade twice. Before last season, the Belgrade event was last held in 2012 and saw Andreas Seppi win. The "Defending Champions" of the tournament are Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic.

Berrettini will not be able to play due to hand problems, while Djokovic will be the protagonist and will try to give a strong emotion to the local public. Djokovic, fresh from his bad defeat against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Monte Carlo, will have to change his pace and start putting important minutes on his legs.

The tournament's top seed will not have it easy even on his debut, as he is likely to face Laslo Djere, who reached the semi-finals in Marrakech and the round of 16 in Monte-Carlo. Djere will face wild card Hamad Medjedovic in the first round.

Thus, Djokovic could find in the quarterfinals another Serbian player who has excelled in recent weeks, Miomir Kecmanovic. The 22-year-old will face Richard Gasquet before playing the winner of the first round match between Dominic Thiem and John Millman.

The Austrian will return to the big circuit after almost a year of forced hiatus. Karen Khachanov, Filip Krajinovic and David Goffin will compete for second place in the semi-finals at the top of the draw. As in the Barcelona tournament, the lower part of the main draw will host the Italian players.

Fabio Fognini and Marco Cecchinato will play an Italian derby in the first round with the winner facing either Mikhail Kukushkin or Aljaz Bedene. Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev and Cristian Garin will give emotion to the last part of the draw.

Annacone comments on Djokovic

During the Tennis Channel discussion, Paul Annacone also assessed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina's upset victory over Novak Djokovic at the 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters. "He wants to come back in an environment where he can see how he's doing," Annacone said.

"He was trying to survive today, this was a battle of attrition for the guys out there to see who could really manage the situation. And you have to give the 22-year-old a ton of credit. Every time Novak snuck back in, I would take a breath and go, 'Oh, here comes the great player - time for the young guy to go away.'

And he didn't, he did a great job in the big moments," Annacone continued. "Particularly, start of the third set, down break point in the first game, held and then ran away with it. It was impressive."