Djokovic In Belgrade: “I Apologise To The Audience!”

Novak Djokovic (photo: Starsrport/Serbia Open)


World No. 8 Andrey Rublev defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-7, 6-0 to win the Serbia Open’s Easter final on Sunday. Despite incredible support from approximately 8,500 tennis lovers on Centre Court, the World No. 1 failed in his attempt to add the 2022 Belgrade trophy to his large collection.

Djokovic regrets the lost final but finds solace in the fact that he has slowly been improving his game before the continuation of the season on clay. Anyhow, the 34-year-old Serbian and Rublev have prepared a real treat for the spectators, a tennis spectacle to remember, held on the greatest feast in the Orthodox Christian calendar.

“It’s a shame I lost all my energy in the third set and failed to put up a better fight. However, I see this final as a positive thing. I congratulate Andrey on the title. He’s had a good week, and he’s one of top tennis players in the world for a reason. At the end, I have to say that I’m tired. I could have lost the in the first round. I’ve had three tough three set matches and that will help me in the continuation of the season. At least this weariness caught up with me in the fourth match and not in the first, like it happened in Monte Carlo. Paris is my goal and I hope I’ll be ready,” said Djokovic.

Djokovic added that he was not feeling so well on the court but did not want to talk too much about that. He wanted to give more to the Belgrade audience but it simply wasn’t possible in the third set.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Maybe at the start of my career. That’s why I believe it’s due to a medical condition. It seems that I need more time to recover than I expected. I was feeling well until the second set. I was lucky to win the tie-break. I stepped on the court after a medical timeout and I thought I was ready for the third set. However, I’ve had enough energy for two or three games only. I know that it is not pleasant to watch something like that from the stands. I apologise for the third set but I did all I could.”


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Djokovic’s entire coaching team was with him at his home tournament.

“Marian travelled a lot with me during the course of my career. He got tired. We have made a decision to end our collaboration together a year ago. We just didn’t make it official. That is why we have now organised all this at the tournament. We have achieved a lot together. I wanted to celebrate that and this was an ideal opportunity,” Djokovic said.

The best Serbian tennis player also parted ways with his long-term physio Miljan Amanović.

“Miljan also travelled a lot with me and he has three children to think about. On the other hand, we have big plans for the Centre, i.e. to start a tennis academy. In order to make great things, you have to have people you trust in your corner, and I’m glad Miljan Amanović accepted to spearhead this idea. It will help the development of tennis as a sport. I will not be making any changes to the rest of my sporting team. We all stay where we are,” Djokovic explained.

The best support of my career

Djokovic has once again said how thrilled he was with support he had in the last couple of days and thanked the Belgrade audience.

“You don’t have so many opportunities to play in front of your home crowd. Maybe once or twice a year if there is the Davis Cup tournament. All our tennis players love playing at the Serbia Open and we all like to play in Belgrade. We travel a lot across the globe but this is home. The last five or six days have been unforgettable. I would like to thank everyone. I did experience something similar here in 2011. But the stands were smaller back then, we can now accommodate almost 10,000 people. I was feeding off the energy from the stands until the end, until the final. I hope to be able to replay that proud moment and that feeling of satisfaction at challenging moments in the future,” the World No. 1 said with a smile.

Asked what advice the world No. 1 would give to his younger self, Djokovic answered:

“There are some universal values and general features that are always useful. Commitment is one of them. It is important for a tennis player to think carefully, to think on her/his own, and then make a decision how dedicated they want to be to this sport. It is an individual sport and no one can replace you when you’re injured. Maybe you don’t want to practice in the morning but you have to get up even when if it is the last thing you want to do. Then there are long-term and short-term goals, to be committed, to push forward, you have to find the energy and recognise the moment when you need it the most. Our teenage years are years to explore, to find out more about ourselves. I was lucky to be surrounded by good people, real mentors, Jelena Genčić, Nikola Pilić, my parents. Some people were my teachers in life who taught me about real values.”

Belgrade to remain on the ATP Tour calendar

The Belgrade tournament has received heaps of praises and the tournament officials are hoping to upgrade the tournament to the ATP 500 category.

“We do want to own this licence. We are leasing the licence from the company that organised this tournament in Budapest and Bucharest. We have submitted our bid. It does not make any sense to invest if we don’t own the license. We have showed what we can do. Everyone had a chance to see that this tournament is worth three times more when it takes place in Belgrade,” Djokovic said.

“If we succeed in our intention, we have to talk to the ATP management because there is a possibility that two tournaments are played in the same week, and the second is currently taking place in Barcelona. We want to purchase the licence, we have the support of the city and the state. It wouldn’t be possible without their support. More than 1.000 people are engaged on the organisation of this tournament. We already know that the upgrade would bring better tennis players to the tournament. Funds are also necessary to bring big names. We are ready to embark on that journey and the first step has been taken,” Djokovic concluded.