Playing his first match in Vienna since 2007, Novak Djokovic had to work hard against the fellow Serb Filip Krajinovic. The lower-ranked player had the advantage in the opening set, leading 5-3 and wasting a set point at 6-5 in the decider before Djokovic took charge and scored a 7-6, 6-3 victory in an hour and 58 minutes.
Praising the compatriot, Djokovic said that Krajinovic was the better player in the opening set, wasting that set point and missing an easy smash at 6-6. It was a high-level clash with more winners than unforced errors on both sides.
Djokovic lost serve twice and secured four breaks from 11 opportunities, overcoming that deficit and never looking back. World no. 1 had to work hard in the opening game, fending off two break chances with winners and getting his name on the scoreboard with an unreturned serve.
Novak held at love with an ace down the T line in game three, securing the first break with a volley winner at the net a few minutes later for a 3-1 lead. Filip bounced back with a break at 15 in game five, gathering momentum and producing another break in game seven with a backhand down the line winner.
Serving at 4-3, Krajinovic repelled a couple of break chances and brought the game home with an ace down the T line, moving two points away from the set on the return in the next one. Djokovic held after a service winner and earned a break at 15 at 4-5 to prolong the set.
Both players produced comfortable holds in games 11 and 12 to set up a tie break where Filip earned a set point with a smash winner at 5-5. Novak saved it and grabbed three straight points to wrap up the breaker at 7-6 when Krajinovic sprayed a forehand error, securing the first part of the encounter after 71 minutes.
Novak Djokovic saved a set point against Filip Krajinovic in Vienna.
Starting all over, the younger Serb clinched the first game of the second set with a backhand winner, spoiling all that at 1-1 when his forehand found the net to give serve away.
Trailing 3-1, Krajinovic produced fine shotmaking to fend off three break chances and remain within one break deficit. Serving at 3-2, Djokovic erased a break point with a smash winner, squandering another break opportunity in game seven following a poor drop shot.
A forehand down the line winner sent Novak 5-3 up, wasting the match point on the return before converting the second on his serve to advance into round two. "Filip and I are good friends, we train a lot together, and it is never easy to play someone you are very close to.
He is a lovely guy, and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him and tried to be there as a friend and a mentor. We go back a long way. We practiced a few times before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone you know very well.
I was lucky in the first set; I think he was the better player. He served for the first set, and I was lucky to win it after he missed a smash at 6-6 in the tie break. A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match.
I stepped it up in the second set and played better; I'm pleased with the way I finished the match," Novak Djokovic said.