Serbia Open Kicks Off, As Main Draw Gets Underway In Belgrade

Nikola Milojevic (photo: Srdjan StevanovicStarsportphoto)


The ATP Tour has returned to Belgrade for the first time since 2012 with the Serbia Open taking place at the Novak Tennis Center. The opening day of the ATP 250 clay-court event ended with mixed feelings for both local wild card entries in action.

Nikola Milojevic, recent champion of the Zadar Open ATP Challenger in Croatia, began his home campaign with a comfortable 6-4, 6-0 first-round win over Federico Coria of Argentina on Monday afternoon. The World No. 134 sent down five aces and won 68 per cent of his first-service points to advance after one hour and 20 minutes. Milojevic will next take on the winner of the encounter between No. 5 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia and Italian Stefano Travaglia.

Later in the day, Marco Cecchinato knocked out Serbian veteran Viktor Troicki, 6-1, 6-4. The 28-year-old from Italy saved the only break point he faced and capitalized on three of his own four break-point chances to prevail after one hour and six minutes. Up next for Cecchinato will be his compatriot and No. 2 seed Matteo Berrettini.

“I am healthy now, I trained hard in order to participate in this tournament on clay. I went to Miami, but I was not ready, so I decided not to play. The injury was not light, I never had one like that before, and it affected my serves a lot. I feel that I am ready now, I need matches to get into the best shape,” said Berrettini during Monday’s media day.

Djokovic leads the field

The field is led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who will attempt to win his third title in Belgrade. The local hero went 8-1 in his three previous appearances in this tournament, and that defeat came due to a retirement in the 2010 quarterfinals.

Djokovic lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011. One week after being upset in the third round in Monte-Carlo, the 33-year-old will try to bounce back against South Korean Soonwoo Kwon or Spanish lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena, who lifted the trophy of the Serbia Challenger Open on Sunday. Djokovic got off to a strong start to his 2021 season by winning his two matches at the ATP Cup and lifting a record-extending ninth Australian Open trophy.

“It is an unique feeling and it means a lot being here and playing in front of my people. It also great to see the draw being packed with the best Serbian male players,” Djokovic said on Monday.

He hopes for a possible quarterfinal clash with a compatriot, facing either Laslo Djere or Miomir Kecmanovic, who are both part of the top of the draw. “I haven’t played Serbian players too many times, in particular the next generation,” Djokovic added.