Third seed Aslan Karatsev clinched the biggest victory of his career against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, triumphing in a three-hour and 25-minute lung-buster on Saturday to reach the championship match at the Serbia Open.
Taking on the top seed at his namesake Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade, Karatsev stayed calm in the decisive moments to save 23 of the 28 break points he faced against Djokovic, one of the best returners in the game. Karatsev stuck to his aggressive strategy to survive a second-set comeback and record a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 stunner.
Karatsev improved to 1-1 in his ATP Head2Head against Djokovic, avenging his straight-sets defeat in the 2021 Australian Open semi-finals. The Russian awaits the winner of second seed Matteo Berrettini and Japanese lucky loser Taro Daniel. Karatsev owns a 1-0 lead against Daniel, and has never faced the Italian.
Djokovic powered his way to 2-0 leads in the first two sets against the reigning Dubai champion Karatsev, who burst into the scene at the Australian Open with a breakthrough semi-final fun from qualifying. But in both sets, Karatsev didn’t allow Djokovic to settle into the lead, breaking back quickly and pressing the Serbian from the baseline.
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After Karatsev claimed the opening set, he looked to be closing in on a straight-sets win as he took a 4-2 lead in the second set. But the World No. 1 responded emphatically, raising his level and rallying the limited spectators in Belgrade as he reeled off the next four games in a row. In a deciding set that came down the wire, Karatsev claimed the crucial break at 4-3 and denied Djokovic 10 break points en route to the final.
With the victory, Karatsev snapped Djokovic’s 11-match winning streak on home soil (30-4 overall) dating back to Davis Cup in 2011. The Serbian, who added a record-extending ninth Australian Open trophy to his haul earlier in the season, was looking for his 83rd ATP Tour title.