In one of the best matches of the season so far, Aslan Karatsev stunned world no.1 Novak Djokovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 after three and a half hours to reach the Serbia Open final! The Russian saved 23 out of 28 break chances and secured six breaks that carried him over the top.
Karatsev won four points more than Novak in a grueling opening set, saving five out of seven break chances and stealing world no. 1's serve three times for 7-5 and a massive boost. Novak held at love in the opening game with a service winner and grabbed a break in the next one following Aslan's forehand mistake.
The Russian missed another forehand in game three, with Djokovic opening a 3-0 advantage after only ten minutes. After two comfortable holds, Djokovic lost an extended baseline rally and suffered a break when his rival painted a forehand down the line winner.
Karatsev sealed the sixth game with three aces to level the score at 3-3, feeling much better on the court than in the early stages. Losing ground a bit, Novak had to fire a service winner to fend off a break point in game seven and created a chance in the next one, denied by a powerful serve from Karatsev, who held for 4-4.
Overpowering Novak from the baseline, Aslan earned a break in game nine following Djokovic's backhand error, taking five of the last six games to serve for the opener. With no room for mistakes, Novak pulled the break back to level the score at 5-5 before Karatsev stole his serve again and opened a 6-5 lead.
Facing three break points in that 12th game, Aslan repelled them all and closed the opener after forcing Novak's backhand error for 7-5 in 70 minutes! Novak was close to the exit door in set number two, trailing 4-2 before finding his A-game to rattle off four straight games and force a decider.
Djokovic produced incredible defense in the second game to break his rival, who erased the deficit with a forehand drive-volley winner in the next one.
Aslan Karatsev ousted Novak Djokovic in three sets at the Serbia Open.
Aslan saved four break chances in the fourth game to level the score at 2-2, gaining a massive boost and stealing Novak's serve at 15 in game five for a 3-2 advantage.
The Russian saved a break point in game six to open a 4-2 gap, moving two steps from reaching the final and stunning the home favorite. Djokovic survived the rival's game point at 3-4 and broke back to return to the positive side of the scoreboard.
As was expected, the Serb held at love in game nine and took four straight points on the return in the next one for the second straight break and a set. Novak won three incredible rallies at the end of the set with winners to give his crowd something to cheer about ahead of the final part of the match.
Still fighting hard, Karatsev wasted two break points in the final set's opening game before leveling the score at 1-1. Feeling tired, Novak secured the third game with a perfect drop shot winner, giving his best to overpower the rival and advance into the final.
Both players had to work hard in games four and five, fending off three break chances each before more problems for the Russian at 2-3. Staying ice-cold, Aslan saved five break points to bring another game home and push Novak to the limits for already three hours.
Djokovic couldn't stand the pressure in game seven, losing serve at 15 and facing the exit door once again. Aslan held at love in game eight to confirm the lead and created a match point on the return, which Novak saved to stay alive following a service winner.
Keeping his composure, the Russian saved two break points in the tenth game and converted the second match point for a career-best victory and a place in the final.