Defending champion Novak Djokovic is through to the quarterfinals at home in Belgrade after a hard-fought 2-6 7-6 7-6 win over fellow Serb Laslo Djere. It took Novak three hours and 21 minutes to claim his third victory of the season, fighting hard but crossing the finish line before the young compatriot.
Laslo won 135 points, three more than Novak, and had a chance to seal the deal in the deciding tie-break before making a blunder at 4-5. Djere defended 12 of the 14 break points and converted four of the 12 chances he had, doing his best to win but ending up on the losing end.
Unlike in Monte Carlo, Djokovic preserved some energy for the final set and survived one last challenge ahead of tomorrow's clash with Miomir Kecmanovic. Djokovic made a forehand error in the first game of the match and experienced an early break.
Djere kept love in the second game with a service winner to consolidate the advantage and establish a good rhythm. Novak saved one break point in game three and two more at 1-3 to stay at least one break away. Laslo served well in games four and six to open a 4-2 gap, challenging Novak again in game seven.
The older Serb served below 50% and was broken to trail 5-2 after Djere's forehand winner down the line. Serving from the first player, Laslo fended off a break chance in game eight and converted the fourth set point with a forehand winner down the line for 6-2 and a big drive.
Djokovic raised his level in the second set and managed three comfortable at-bats. Djere avoided three break points in the second game and grabbed a break at 3-3 to move closer to the finish line. Novak broke again in the next one to level the result at 4-4 and extend his chances.
Djokovic has had an unusual 2022 campaign
Despite Novak Djokovic's indifferent start to 2022, Greg Rusedski feels the World No. 1 will not be found wanting at Roland Garros this summer. Rusedski, a former top-10 player, believes Djokovic needs to get a few wins under his belt to be fully ready for his Roland Garros title defense.
In an interview with Eurosport, the Brit said: "How he wins doesn't matter. He just needs to win games, even if it's ugly. You don't lose class. You miss the liveliness of matches, but winning becomes a habit. He must get back on the bandwagon. Whether it's next week or the week after, but he will be ready to defend his title at Roland Garros."