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Rublev defeats Djokovic for Belgrade Tennis title, Alcaraz remains red hot in Barcelona

Novak Djokovic and Belgrade champion Andrey Rublev. Photo credit: Serbia Open Facebook

By Ricky Dimon

Another three-setter at the Serbia Open was one too many for Novak Djokovic.

The 34-year-old Serb survived final sets against Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic, and Karen Khachanov to reach the final in what was only his third tournament of the season. Djokovic went the distance yet again on Sunday afternoon, but this time his opponent was too tough. In a battle between Belgrade’s top two seeds, Andrey Rublev triumphed 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 after two hours and 27 minutes.

Djokovic came back from a set down against Djere, Kecmanovic, and Khachanov, and for a moment it looked like he was poised to do the same at Rublev’s expense. The world No. 1 gave back an early break in the second, but he recovered to take the ensuing tiebreaker.

However, Djokovic expended a ton of energy just to make it this far and he used up all of his reserves to force a decider on Sunday. Rublev, on the other hand, had a lot left in the tank and the 24-year-old rolled through the third set with no trouble whatsoever.

“It is big to play against you and share the court for the second time,” Rublev told Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. :I hope we have more battles. I feel so great here, it is a very nice city. It feels really special. I want to say a big thanks to all the spectators for supporting all the players all week. To see full crowds again is special for all of us.”

“Things are progressing slowly but surely,” Djokovic commented. “Paris is the big goal and hopefully by Paris I’ll be ready. I have to look at the positives, playing the final in front of my home crowd.

“It was unfortunate that in the third set I ran out of gas and couldn’t deliver more of a fight. After four three-set battles I can say that I am tired but also pleased that I managed to win the matches prior to this one. I think that will serve me for the continuation of the clay-court season.”

Photo credit: Serbia Open Facebook

Things are progressing anything but slowly for Carlos Alcaraz. The 18-year-old Spaniard captured his third title of the season and second in the last month when he defeated countryman Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2 in the Barcelona Open final.

Alcaraz will break into the top 10 (at No. 9) for the first time on Monday. He is also No. 3 in the 2022 race to Turin, trailing No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas by only 70 points. Exactly 2,000 of Alcaraz’s 2,460 points this season have come from titles in Rio de Janeiro (500), Miami (1000), and Barcelona (500).

“It means a lot,” he assured. “I’ve watched this tournament since I was a kid. I always wished to play in this tournament and of course to be able to win this tournament. I’m really, really happy to be part of the [historic] Spanish list.

“I’ve always been a normal guy. I’m not scared of fame. I’m not going to change the person I am. I’m happy to know that at 18 years old I’m in the top 10, and to do it (at) the same age as my idol [Rafael Nadal] is impressive.”

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