Former 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert saw encouraging signs in the game of Novak Djokovic at the Serbia Open in Belgrade. World No. 1 Djokovic made a slow start to the clay season as he suffered a shock defeat in his Monte Carlo Masters opener to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
After an early Monte Carlo exit, Djokovic bounced back in Belgrade as he reached the final at the tournament. Djokovic's path to the final wasn't the easiest of the smoothest but still he managed to win several tight matches and give himself a shot at the title.
Djokovic recovered from a set down to beat Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov, before losing to Andrey Rublev in the final. "No matter what happens today and @DjokerNole is not near his best yet, but he’s made progress and dug out a lot of matches; this has to be encouraging," Evert tweeted.
Djokovic ran out of gas in the third set
Djokovic won a tight second set to force a decider but then ran out of energy as Rublev won 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-0.
"I apologise because of the way the 3rd set unfolded. It’s an individual sport, when something fails, the engine can’t work. Lots of emotions, thank you for pushing me to the finals," Djokovic said. Djokovic had a chance to claim the first break of the match in the fourth game but failed to realize a break point.
Djokovic paid the price for blowing a break point as Rublev claimed back-to-back breaks in the fifth and seventh games to win the first set. Djokovic blew an early second set break and multiple set points in the 10th and 12th games but realized his seventh set point in the second set tie-break to force a decider.
After grinding out a tight second set, Djokovic ran out of gas and easily lost the third set. Djokovic will now take a week off and return to action at the Madrid Masters in early May.