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Djokovic overcomes Kecmanovic, awaits Khachanov in Belgrade semifinals

Novak Djokovic. Photo credit: Serbia Open Facebook

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic could not have liked his Serbia Open draw when it was revealed last weekend.

Fellow Serbs Laslo Djere and Miomir Kecmanovic were projected to be the world No. 1’s first two opponents. It’s never easy facing good friends and the quality of opposition did not help, either. Djere is the essence of a clay-court specialist, while Kecmanovic has been one of the best players on tour all season long.

As expected, Djokovic’s path to the quarterfinals could not have been tougher. But he managed to navigate it successfully–even though his first two opponents did, in fact, end up being those two countrymen. Following a 2-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) victory over Djere that lasted three hours and 22 minutes, the top seed got right back in action less than 24 hours later and overcame Kecmanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 during quarterfinal action on Thursday afternoon.

Just as he did against Djere, Djokovic recovered from a set and a break down to beat Kecmanovic. The 34-year-old was especially impressive in the third set, raising his level when it mattered most to wear down a red-hot opponent.

“The scenario was similar to last evening’s match, but I managed to win and qualify for the semis,” Djokovic reflected. “Thanks to my team, I felt better than last night.”

The 20-time major champion’s reward is a semifinal showdown on Saturday against Karen Khachanov, who defeated Thiago Monteiro 7-5, 6-4, in Thursday’s nightcap. Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 5-1 and has won four in a row since losing to Khachanov in the final of the 2018 Paris Masters.

“I’m very pleased that I’m not going to play a Serbian player,” Djokovic commented. “That’s going to be very nice for a change.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.