Rublev does not lose to Djokovic in Belgrade and takes the title
The final in Serbia was a sensation as world number one Djokovic failed to defeat Rublev in front of the home crowd. Andrei Rublev defeated Novak Djokovic in Belgrade. It is Andrei’s first victory over the renowned Serb and the current world number one.
The finalists of the ATP-250 tournament in Belgrade were not unexpected. The first and second seeds – Novak Djokovic and Andrei Rublev made it to the decisive match. For the Serb this is only his third tournament of the season after Dubai and Monte Carlo, and now in Belgrade you could see how he is gaining momentum from match to match. His first two matches were against compatriots Laszlo Jere and Miomir Kecmanovic, and Novak fought against No. 3 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia in the semifinals. All three matches were three-sets matches for Djokovic, and in all of them he conceded the first game, but then won.
Rublev’s path to the final was very different. At the beginning he had a hard time against Jiri Legechka of the Czech Republic in three sets. But then he confidently defeated his quarter-final and semi-final opponents Taro Daniel and Fabio Fognini. Rublev and Djokovic had met only once before, easily earning a two-set victory in the group stage of the ATP Tour of Turin 2021.
Ana Dmitrieva, 18-time USSR champion and tennis commentator, shared her impressions before the Belgrade finals: “The fact that Djokovic is playing at home and has an audience in front of him speaks for him. It’s a home crowd, it’s an extra motivation. He’d be very happy to win. It’s impossible to say that Novak is in supernatural shape, but he’s gaining his game form, because he’s been training, but hasn’t had competitive practice. He’s gaining form with every match. Rublev got better by the end of the tournament. Andrei’s last match against Fognini was quite convincing. But Fognini is physically inferior to all the opponents he has to fight. Djokovic has the better chance, but Rublev has nothing to lose and will go all-out and attack. There’s one thing: Djokovic is good at reading Rublev’s game, because his style of play is very direct, while Novak is very accurate. But it can happen. Andrei will fight, and I’d like him to win and get out of this very difficult condition that all our tennis players are in. I’m not ashamed to lose to Djokovic anyway.
Of course, Novak had the experience and support of the local crowd, which filled the stands to capacity. For the eminent Serb, it was the 124th finals of his career, with a record of 86 wins – 37 losses in previous decisive battles. Curiously, it is his third consecutive final against the Russians – he lost to Medvedev at the US Open 2021, got his revenge against Daniil at the Paris Masters, and now he faces Rublev. Andrei himself has far more modest finals figures – 16th and 10-5. The Russian nevertheless came out strong from the very beginning, hitting the opening shots against Djokovic just as Anna Dmitrieva seemed to be saying. The Serb took a long time to get his serve going, and Andrei was excellent on the receiving end. And this with Djokovic himself. With the score at 2-2 Rublev had two consecutive breaks and brought the set to the victory, beating the Serb 6-2 in 36 minutes.
The Serb began to dictate the conditions in the second game and led by a break, 2-0. But we must give credit to Andrei – his game did not fall apart after that and he quickly evened the score – 2:2. At the end of the set Rublev served the tenth and twelfth games in a particularly tough match. The Russian won two set-balls, then three more. In the end, the game was decided in a tie-break game, where Djokovic was the lucky one with a 7-6 (7-4) score in 1 hour and 19 minutes. It should be said that Novak fought like a lion, not sparing himself – he fell repeatedly, trying to get the ball, and at the break between sets he even had to change his dirty uniform. Both players went to the break, and Rublev came out fresher in the decisive set and defeated him 6-2, 6-7, 6-0!
That is how the final in Serbia ended with a sensation – in front of the local audience, the world ranking leader could not cope with the Russian Andrei Rublev. This is Andrei’s first victory over the eminent Serb and his 11th career title. With this success the Russian indirectly helped his teammate Daniil Medvedev in his virtual struggle with Djokovic for the first place in the rankings. Novak scored only 150 points in Belgrade and not the 250 points he is supposed to get for the title.
He will now need more than 90 points at the Masters in Madrid, or Medvedev will return to World No. 1 on May 9. Andrei is the first Russian player to defeat all Big Three players such as Federer, Nadal and now Djokovic.