Top-seeded Novak Djokovic admitted that No. 104-ranked Roman Safiullin was not an easy opponent and credited the Russian for fighting to the last point during their Tel Aviv Open semifinal match. On Saturday, Djokovic defeated Safiullin 6-1 7-6(3) to advance to the final of the inaugural Tel Aviv Open.
"I think it was a very competitive match, especially in the second set," Djokovic said after his victory. "I must say that he was quite excited on court today in the second set, there was a lot of tension, and that was also due to his aggressive style of tennis.
Great serves, and when he has time, he is very solid from the right corner and the reverse. I knew that I had to stay very strong and that he was going to raise his level in the second set, which he did. I was serving for the game and I played a couple of weak points, but the credit goes to him for having fought.
It's been a nice afternoon on the track, for sure." Djokovic had a perfect start to the match, getting consecutive breaks and winning the first five games of the match. In game six, Safiullin took the game out of him and finally went ahead to cut the deficit to 5-1.
Not much changed, however, as Djokovic routinely served to clinch the first set in game seven. After losing the first set, Safiullin had her first break points of the match in the sixth game of the second set but did not convert them.
Then, in the ninth game, Djokovic got the first break of the set to open a 5-4 lead and give himself a chance to serve for the match.
Djokovic credited his parents
Novak Djokovic is known for his extraordinary mental strength, something that has helped establish him as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
"I think it has a lot to do with the environment I grew up in. As I have told before, I grew up in the 90's in Serbia, with wars, sanctions and difficult times to live. My parents suffered a lot just to be able to eat. I have been lucky to belong to this sport, which is not cheap.
I fell in love with tennis and my parents helped me, even though it was extremely difficult for them," Djokovic was quoted as saying by Punto de Break. "It comes from appreciating life and these kinds of circumstances, knowing what it feels like to have nothing and then have so much in life.
That gives you perspective to respect everything that comes with a more positive and humble attitude. It's not always something that helps me, but it makes it prevail when I use it," he added.