ATP 250 Belgrade – In diesel mode before Roland, Novak Djokovic regains his level before his final against Andrey Rublev

The Novak Djokovic house is being rebuilt stone by stone. Coming very close to disaster at the start of the week, here is the Serbian one match, and one victory, from winning his first title of the 2022 season. Miomir Kecmanovic.

It is mainly his entry into the running against Djere that is still in people’s minds. Led by a set and a break, unable to play tennis well, on the street physically, Djokovic was unrecognizable last Wednesday. It was even painful to see. Between this Djokovic of four days ago and the one seen from the second set of the half against Karen Khachanov on Saturday, there is a world of difference. But opening the “Djoko” guide, it’s no surprise that the boss of the men’s circuit has always had a diesel side, whether on the circuit, after an injury like in 2018 or even in his Grand Slam courses.

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No, Novak Djokovic is not going to become the player he was a year ago, especially during his hat-trick Australian Open – Roland-garros – Wimbledon, but he has taken the right path to hope to find this level in not too long. This is his strength, in a short time, “Nole” knows how to transform his level of play whether between two tournaments, or even in the heart of a match. Last year, at Roland-Garros, he made an impression by reversing compromised situations against Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 16, and scoring even more against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, to the point of creating trauma for the Greek . In Belgrade this week, no need for a toilet break, Nole found his way on the court, like a musician doing his scales.

From the start of the second set, I started to feel the ball (better), especially on the backhand side, which didn’t work in the first set. The second and third sets are the best I’ve played this season“, admitted the world No. 1, who had only played four games before settling down at home. His transformation to the 2022 version occurred in two stages in the semi-finals: first at the end of the first round, then by bringing out the machine in hardened steel on the mental level, by recovering a compromised situation at 1-1, 0/30, at the start of the second set.

After taking the Russian’s service at 2-1, Nole went to get his people, his public, won over to his cause and in need of seeing him on a court. So much so that Jan Oblak, the doorman of Atlético de Madrid traveled by express to Belgrade to see him in situ. With his own, the Djoko machine has found its fuel. Everything changed. “I used the energy of the public which today was phenomenal (…) probably the best of my entire career“, he assured.

“If he plays every week, Djokovic will be ready for his goal: Roland-Garros”

A month of May that will weigh heavily

His victim of the day, Karen Khachanov, did not see the turnaround coming. Very good in the first set, whether serving or playing, the 25-year-old was knocked down as rarely. He knows the animal well, however, he has beaten only once in his career, in the final of Bercy 2018. “To be honest with you in the second set, I don’t know how he does it, but he changed his mode and started playing like it was a new game. I tried to answer but today I couldn’t“, lamented the 26th in the world, frustrated by this rise in level.

What will be the level of Djokovic on Sunday? Facing Andrey Rublev, he will fall against a bone. If the Muscovite does not have a counter game like him, he knows how to distribute without putting it everywhere, like before. A profile capable of finishing points quickly that the Serb does not like, mainly on ocher. Their only meeting to date, disputed at the last Masters in Turin, had easily returned to the man with 20 Grand Slams. The Belgrade final will inevitably be different and Djoko will have less room for error than against his last three opponents. Even though he still has that “resurrection” button still near him.

If winning an 87th career title, in front of around 8,000 fans dedicated to his cause, seems like a good idea, it is rather on an accounting level that Djokovic can make a good deal by going all the way. Outgoing semi-finalist, the Serb was guaranteed to lose 90 points next Monday. He will eventually make a small profit. It will be 60 points if he loses against Rublev or 160 in the event of a final victory. A coronation would send Daniil Medvedev, currently absent from the circuit, to 270 points in the ATP ranking.

The rest will be difficult anyway. The Serb will lose the second part of the points of his coronation in Madrid 2019 (500 points, May 9) and those of his Roman final last year (600 points, May 16) while the Russian will only lose 100 points in all and for all. Seeing Djoko remain world No. 1 before Roland-Garros (2000 points to defend) therefore seems a bit utopian at the moment.

So, yes, earning as much as possible seems like a good idea, especially since Alexander Zverev and probably Rafael Nadal will also be ringing the doorbell in a few days. But past the apothecary accounts for the classification, this stay in Belgrade will perhaps give him even more than a smattering of points: a fresh mind for his real start to the season. If the head goes, everything else follows at Novak.

Novak Djokovic

Credit: AFP

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