What happened in 2022 is happening again this year for Novak Djokovic. The Serbian champion is having a difficult start to the clay court season. Last year, Djokovic was eliminated in the first round of Monte-Carlo and then reached the final in Belgrade after a miraculous comeback, considering the outcome of his first two matches. This time, it wasn’t his compatriot Laslo Djere who missed the opportunity, but Frenchman Luca Van Assche, who had to deal with a Djokovic who was clearly improving in the last two sets.
Both players held their serve without any difficulties until 4-4, when Djokovic lost control of his forehand and allowed Van Assche to serve for the first set. At 4-5 (30-30), the Serbian equalized and immediately took the lead thanks to a fantastic forehand and a winning return. In the thirteenth game, Djokovic missed three set points by misreading the trajectory of Van Assche’s serve on two occasions. Djokovic started the tie-break well but, from 3-1, he collected only one of the next seven points.
In the second set, Djokovic decided to remove the visible protection on his right arm, regained confidence and quickly took a 3-1 lead by surprising the Frenchman with his response in the third game. The double break allowed him to level the score. The deciding set brought back the original version of Djokovic, who didn’t let the loss of his opening service game affect him. The 35-year-old Belgrade native picked himself up and won four games in a row, putting Van Assche in difficulty with his backhand. In confidence, Djokovic defeated his opponent with a final score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Day 3 of the Banja Luka tournament opened with a real battle that lasted over three hours. Laslo Djere and Borna Coric fought hard, but it was Djere who won the epic match, closing with scores of 6-4, (1) 6-7, 6-4. Host Damir Dzumhur, on the other hand, defeated lucky loser Liam Broady in straight sets. Photo Credit: REPUBLIKA SRPSKA.