Djokovic’s clay-court campaign is up and running-but not in the way he wanted
- Djokovic will now prepare for a homecoming at the Serbia Open, the first time the ATP Tour has played an event in Belgrade since 2012.
- The 18-time grand slam winner has previously lifted two trophies during the event's previous four-year run, triumphing in 2009 and 2011.
Novak Djokovic had been on an unbeaten 10-match run to start 2021 in which he’d lifted his ninth Australian Open title.
But on Thursday, the world No. 1 says he was “dismantled” by world No. 33 Dan Evans in his first loss of the year.
The pair faced off in the Monte-Carlo Masters with Djokovic — who has won the clay event twice before — explaining afterward that Evans thoroughly “deserved” his 6-4, 7-5 win.
“He was a better player,” the Serbian said in his post-match press conference. “Just more focused I guess and played with a better quality in the decisive moments. This has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the [recent] years.
“Yesterday, I played [a] pretty good match I thought. Today, was completely the opposite of what I felt yesterday. [It] was obviously very, very windy, tough to play in these kind of conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.”
Djokovic will now prepare for a homecoming at the Serbia Open, the first time the ATP Tour has played an event in Belgrade since 2012.
The 18-time grand slam winner has previously lifted two trophies during the event’s previous four-year run, triumphing in 2009 and 2011.
For British No. 1 Evans, it was one of the standout victories of his career and on a surface that he has historically struggled on. Before arriving in Monte-Carlo, he’d only ever won four clay-court matches.
Despite that previous poor record, Evan looked assured throughout his clash with Djokovic, even admitting afterward that he “felt comfortable from the outset.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Evans though. He had to fight back from being 0-3 down in the second set and saved a set point later on.
And after his fourth top 10 victory of his career, he admitted he had some added motivation from Djokovic’s lateness.
“He kept me waiting at the start of the match in the changing rooms a little bit, it was a little annoying, so I was ready to go from that — that got me a little extra fired up,” the 30-year-old said.
Evans will now face Belgian No. 11 seed David Goffin, who knocked out fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Evans said in his post-match interview. “I couldn’t quite believe the last ball went over the net. It nearly didn’t. I was pleased, regardless, with how I was playing coming into the match. I felt good.
“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win,” he added. “I can walk on saying it, but you have really got to believe it. Of course, I doubted myself in the match. Serving it out is not easy. You have got all sorts [of things] running through your head. I am just happy with how it went and it will be one to savor for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the world No. 1. It is a nice one.”
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