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Rublev denies Djokovic first 2022 title

BELGRADE (AFP) – Novak Djokovic was denied his first title of the year on Sunday night, the world number one admitting he “ran out of gas” in a three sets defeat to Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final of the Serbia Open.

Second seed Rublev won 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0 against the top seed who had been looking to regain winning form before his French Open title defence next month.

The Belgrade event in his hometown was only Djokovic’s third of 2022 after he was deported from Melbourne – and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title – after entering the country unvaccinated.

However, despite the 20-time Grand Slam winner being let down by his lack of physical form, he remains upbeat for his bid to capture a third French Open crown.

“Things are progressing slowly but surely, Paris is the big goal and hopefully by Paris I’ll be ready,” said the two-time Serbia Open winner.

The 34-year-old, who lost in the quarter-finals in Dubai and suffered a shock second-round defeat in Monte Carlo, battled past Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov in three sets before the court time caught up with the top seed against Rublev.

“I have to look at the positives, playing the final in front of my home crowd, it was unfortunate that in the third set I ran out of gas and couldn’t deliver more of a fight,” said Djokovic.

“After four three-set battles I can say that I am tired but also pleased that I managed to win the matches prior to this one. I think that will serve me for the continuation of the clay court season.”

Andrey Rublev poses with the trophy. PHOTO: AFP
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