Serbia Open: Novak Djokovic admits Aslan Karatsev was the better player

The World No. 1 local favourite suffered a shock three-set defeat to Karatsev in Belgrade semifinals.

File photo - Novak Djokovic in action in Serbia Open; Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

The tennis world was left in shock as Novak Djokovic suffered a semifinal defeat against Aslan Karatsev at the Serbia Open. The Russian saved 23 break points in the three-hour 25-minute battle against the Serbian to win the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 on Saturday. After the match, Djokovic was not satisfied with his performance but heaped praise on Karatsev.

“You never like losing at home, that is for sure. It is disappointing. I don’t feel so great now but, at the same time, I have to congratulate Karatsev who played very bravely,” said Djokovic. “Whenever he needed to come up with the best shots, he did. Congratulations to him. [It was an] awesome performance from his side.”

Djokovic, who lifted trophies in Belgrade in 2009 and 2011, was undoubtedly not happy with his performance. “From my side, I played on quite a low level, in my opinion,” said Djokovic. “[I had] some flashes of good quality tennis. I was fighting. That is a positive.”

“I was really trying all the way [and] the crowd was great. They carried me and tried to lift me up, all the way to the end. Because of them, I think I won the second set. Unfortunately in the third, he was just the better player in the decisive moments. I had my chances, but that is sport.”

He deserved to win: Djokovic

Djokovic was all praise for Karatsev as he thought the Russian was the better player on the night. “Karatsev showed a lot of courage and that is why I gave him the thumbs up,” said Djokovic. “I felt like he deserved to win… Once the final point is done, there is never bad blood.”

“We are rivals on the court, but I don’t hate anybody. I can’t be upset with him if he beat me. I have to be upset with myself and question why I lost the match. Whoever beats me deserves the credit and I gave him that.”

Despite not being in the final, the World No.1 player had only good things to say about the Serbia Open. “It is disappointing [to] finish the week like this at home. I lost to a better player who was just more courageous,” said Djokovic.

“He went for his shots at the right time and it worked for him. Nevertheless, it was good week and a successful tournament, in general, for us, for the Serbia Open.”

Sportslumo Desk

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