By H.JanGra April 25, 2022
Novak Djokovic was denied his first title of the year on Sunday, 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.
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
"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." Djokovic got off to a bad start, dropping serve twice, to lose the first set after half an hour.
Bouyed by the support of the 8,000 crowd, Djokovic fought back in a marathon second set which lasted just over an hour
levelling in the tie-break despite wasting six set points, before running out of steam in the third.
Rublev captured his third title of the season, days after blasting Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players as "complete discrimination".