Novak Djokovic shrugged off the disappointment of a third-round exit in Monte-Carlo with a dominant 6-1, 6-3 win against Soonwoo Kwon on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Serbia Open.
The World No. 1 was sharp from the first game of the match, showing no residue from his loss against Daniel Evans last week. The home favourite broke the South Korean’s serve five times to advance after 68 minutes.
“I thought I played very well from the very beginning, except that service game that I lost at 5-2 in the second [set]. I thought it was a pretty flawless performance,” Djokovic said. “I moved well, I was mixing up the pace quite well, making him play. I served well in the important moments, [and] overall I just felt great.”
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During his pre-tournament press conference on Monday, Djokovic spoke about the importance of competing in his hometown, where there was last an ATP Tour event in 2012. The Serbian, who won this tournament in two of his three appearances (2009 and 2011), made it clear with his performance against Kwon that he is the strong favourite to claim a third trophy in Belgrade. The 18-time Grand Slam champion was especially pleased to play well in front of family and friends.
“It gives you an extra push, an extra motivation, energy to really give your best and leave it all out on the court,” Djokovic said. “I think also that made me feel comfortable and confident on the court and I played really good. I’m really pleased with the quality of tennis.”
This was the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, and Djokovic immediately put pressure on the World No. 85 by breaking serve in his first return game.
Kwon showed his fighting spirit and aggressive baseline game, but Djokovic had an answer for almost anything the 23-year-old tried. The Serbian got another early break in the second set, at 1-1, sprinting forward for a drop shot and finding an acute angle for a winner.
Although the South Korean earned his first break point at 2-5 in the second set — and converted it — it was far too late, as the top seed broke in the next game to seal his victory.
Djokovic will next play countryman Miomir Kecmanovic, who battled past French qualifier Arthur Rinderknech 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 earlier in the day. The 21-year-old was pleased to get through.
“When I was 0-5 down in the second set, I was already thinking about the third [set], so I began practising some shots and started to come back,” Kecmanovic said. “My game started to work, but I think it helped me to get a good start in the decider and finish him off.”
The Serbian earned five service breaks and withstood 10 aces from the World No. 129. This will be the eighth seed’s first crack at Djokovic.
Did You Know?
The last time Djokovic competed in Belgrade, in 2011, he had not yet ascended to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He has now spent 317 weeks atop tennis’ mountain, more than any player in history.