Novak Djokovic's clay court campaign certainly didn't get off to a good start. After the triumph at the Australian Open, embellished by the lesson inflicted on Daniil Medvedev, he was legitimate to expect something more from the Serbian champion in these first appointments on red.
The number 1 in the world in fact left the scene already in the second round in Monte Carlo, where he paid dearly for a horrible day against Dan Evans. The 18-time Grand Slam champion then went to Belgrade to compete in the ATP 250 at home, with the hope of lifting the trophy in front of a friendly public and getting back on track for Roland Garros.
After two rather easy rounds, however, Nole had to bow to a wild Aslan Karatsev, author of a masterful performance that earned him the most important scalp of his career. With about a month to go until the French Open begins, Djokovic admitted that he is still behind in terms of condition and level of play.
Novak will have the Mutua Madrid Open and the BNL Internazionali of Italy at his disposal to send a signal to his opponents.
Novak Djokovic on his clay court season
“You never like losing at home, that is for sure. It is disappointing.
I don’t feel so great now but, at the same time, I have to congratulate Karatsev who played very bravely,” said Novak Djokovic. “Whenever he needed to come up with the best shots, he did. Congratulations to him.
[It was an] awesome performance from his side. From my side, I played on quite a low level, in my opinion. I had some flashes of good quality tennis. I was fighting. That is a positive. I was really trying all the way [and] the crowd was great.
They carried me and tried to lift me up, all the way to the end. Because of them, I think I won the second set. Unfortunately in the third, he was just the better player in the decisive moments. I had my chances, but that is sport.
Karatsev showed a lot of courage and that is why I gave him the thumbs up.I felt like he deserved to win. Once the final point is done, there is never bad blood. We are rivals on the court, but I don’t hate anybody. I can’t be upset with him if he beat me.
I have to be upset with myself and question why I lost the match. Whoever beats me deserves the credit and I gave him that. It is disappointing [to] finish the week like this at home. I lost to a better player who was just more courageous.
He went for his shots at the right time and it worked for him. Nevertheless, it was good week and a successful tournament, in general, for us”.