Novak Djokovic will head to the French Open on the back of claiming the singles title at the Belgrade Open after battling past Alex Molcan in the final.

The world number one did not have it all his own way against the world number 255, with the first set featuring just three service holds.

But Djokovic claimed four breaks to Molcan's three to take the opener and did not let his advantage slip in front of his home crowd.

He negotiated a similarly tricky second set to prevail 6-4 6-3, with attention now turning to the second grand slam of the year after Djokovic won the Australian Open back in January.

After a resilient performance in the first set as he twice came back from a break down, Djokovic was able to enjoy a slightly less frenetic path to victory in the second.

He broke down a more obdurate Molcan for a 4-2 lead, only for the Slovak to hit straight back.

But Djokovic was not to be denied and immediately claimed another break, which he consolidated to delight his adoring public.

Victory in what was Djokovic's first final on home soil since 2011 means he now has 83 ATP singles titles to his name, with three of them coming at this event.

It also caps a positive period of preparation for a tilt at a second French Open title, with Djokovic having reached the final in Rome this month only to lose to Roland Garros favourite Rafael Nadal.

Nadal and Djokovic could meet in the semi-finals this year in Paris, where the Serbian was thrashed by the King of Clay in three sets in the 2020 final.

Djokovic will start his campaign to add to his 2016 French Open success when he faces Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Novak Djokovic survived a second-set fightback from Andrej Martin to seal his place in the final of the Belgrade Open on Friday.

The world number one looked well placed to cruise to victory after taking just 38 minutes to win the first set 6-1, but qualifier Martin hit back in the second to force a decider.

Djokovic swiftly regained composure, though, with a bagel settling the contest 6-1 4-6 6-0 in his favour, and he will now have the backing of his home crowd as he looks to clinch his third Belgrade Open title and warm up for the French Open in style.

"I'm super excited to play in front of a Serbian crowd. This is my home town," said Djokovic, who previously won at the event in 2009 and 2011.

"I'm always excited, but also nervous, coming out on the court and playing in front of my home crowd. It's a very unique feeling. You feel a lot of pressure and expectations. But I'm just happy to fight for a trophy.

"I thought I started and finished the match really well, so I'll try to take those positive feelings into tomorrow's final. I also had some letdowns in concentration towards the end of the second set, and I'll try to correct those mistakes for tomorrow."

Standing in the way of a second title of the season for 34-year-old Djokovic is another qualifier, Slovakian Alex Molcan, who came from behind to beat Federico Delbonis 4-6 6-4 6-4.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open, Sebastian Korda, who has yet to drop a set this week, triumphed in an all-American semi-final contest, beating Tommy Paul 6-3 6-3 to reach his second Tour-level final.

Korda's win sets up a final against Italian Marco Cecchinato, who is aiming for his fourth career singles title after overcoming Jaume Munar 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 6-1.

Novak Djokovic felt he produced his best performance of the year in breezing past Federico Coria at the Belgrade Open for a milestone victory.

World number one Djokovic needed a little under an hour to beat Coria 6-1 6-0 on Thursday and set up a semi-final with Andrej Martin on home soil.

The victory moves the 34-year-old above Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most victories in the Open Era with 952.

He is 70 wins adrift of fourth-placed Rafael Nadal (1,022). Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), with Jimmy Connors holding the record of 1,274 wins.

Djokovic won 53 of the 75 points played against Coria and dropped just one game to remain on course for a third crown in Serbia ahead of the French Open.

"It was a great display," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "It's probably one of the best matches, if not the best match, I played this year. I felt fantastic from the first point.

"It was the first time that I played against Coria and I tried to impose an aggressive style from the very beginning and not allow him to have too much time to play around. I played a phenomenal second set, really flawless.

"It's not always possible to play like this. But I think this definitely helps me feel better on the court. I think everything worked perfectly for me today."

Martin awaits Djokovic in the last four after the world number 119 recovered from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Alex Molcan remains in the hunt for a shock triumph in Belgrade, meanwhile, after beating Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-0 to set up a showdown with Federico Delbonis.

Eighth seed Delbonis advanced to his second semi-final of the season following Roberto Carballes Baena's withdrawal through illness.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Sebastian Korda eliminated Yoshihito Nishioka to set up an all-American semi-final with Tommy Paul, who took down Jan-Lennard Struff with a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Richard Gasquet was another seeded player to fall as he lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar, with the Spaniard now set to take on Italian wild card Marco Cecchinato – a straight-sets winner against lucky loser Norbert Gombos – for a place in the final.

Gael Monfils missed out on a place in the Belgrade Open quarter-finals as the second seed was stunned by qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-4).

World number 15 Monfils would have been expected to breeze through against Carballes Baena, whose lone ATP title came back in February 2018.

But Monfils was trounced in the first set and, despite coming back from a break down to win the second, he could not avoid a shock loss as Carballes Baena reversed a 4-1 deficit in the decisive tie-break on Wednesday.

Carballes Baena's triumph sets up a last-eight clash with eighth seed Federico Delbonis, who beat Thiago Monteiro 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-4 at the ATP 250 event in Serbia.

Dusan Lajovic also moved through to the quarters after easing past Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-4, with Andrej Martin the fifth seed's opponent after upsetting third seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 4-6 7-6 (7-4).

Elsewhere, top seed Lorenzo Sonego suffered a second-round exit at the Emilia-Romagna Open as Sebastian Korda claimed a surprise win.

Korda entered the tournament with just one clay-court win to his name in 2021 but followed up a first-round success over Andreas Seppi with a 6-1 7-5 defeat of Sonego.

Yoshihito Nishioka is his next opponent after the Japanese saw off Lorenzo Musetti 6-3 6-2.

Jaume Munar and Richard Gasquet also progressed, as did Jan-Lennard Struff, Norbert Gombos, Marco Cecchinato and Tommy Paul.

 

Novak Djokovic celebrated putting his name into "another history record book" after his victory over Mats Moraing at the Belgrade Open.

Djokovic's 6-2 7-6 (7-4) triumph on Tuesday set up a quarter-final tie against Federico Coria, and put the world number one level with Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most match wins in the Open Era (951).

It was his 17th win of the season, as the 34-year-old looks to prepare for the French Open with a third title success in his home tournament.

"With this win I managed to put my name in another history record book," Djokovic said following his victory.

"Obviously being in the same conversation with Vilas and the legends and greats of our game, it makes me really fulfilled and very joyful."

Djokovic has some way to go to make it into the top four on the all-time list, however.

He is 71 wins adrift of Rafael Nadal (1,022), who sits fourth. Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), who still has Jimmy Connors' record of 1,274 Open Era wins in his sights.

Despite a tight start, Djokovic got away from Moraing by winning four straight games.

Moraing hit back in set two to force a tie-break, but his illustrious opponent had too much quality.

"I was twice a break up in the second set so I maybe could have finished out the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting, for playing really well, for playing very courageous, very bold tennis," Djokovic said.

After turning 34 on Saturday, Djokovic received a bye to the second round of the Belgrade Open. He lost in the semi-finals of the Serbian Open last month, and came into this event on the back of a defeat to Nadal in the Rome Masters final.

Next up is Coria, who defeated Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2, though Djokovic's compatriot Pedja Krstin dropped out, crushed 6-0 6-0 by Slovakian Alex Molcan.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, fifth seed Richard Gasquet defeated Daniel Altmeier 6-3 6-3, while Sebastian Korda defeated Andreas Seppi to tee up a tie with top seed Lorenzo Sonego. 

Lorenzo Musetti claimed his 13th tour-level win of 2021 by overcoming Gianluca Mager, and the Italian's reward is a meeting with Yoshihito Nishioka, who beat Sam Querrey.

World number one Novak Djokovic will face Mats Moraing in the second round of the Belgrade Open on Tuesday.

Moraing, who is ranked 252 places below Djokovic, beat Egor Gerasimov 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 in a gruelling encounter on Monday.

Djokovic is seeking his 83rd Tour-level title as he warms up for the French Open, the main draw of which begins on May 30.

Fellow home favourite Dusan Lajovic, the highest seed to compete on day one, will meet Jeremy Chardy next after beating Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

Eighth seed Federico Delbonis required three sets to see off Lukas Klein, while seventh seed Miomir Kecmanovic – another Serbian in the draw – was beaten 6-3 6-2 by Pablo Cuevas.

Veteran Fernando Verdasco set up a contest with Adrian Mannarino after an impressive 7-5 6-2 win over Lucas Pouille.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, all of Monday's play had to be cancelled due to persistent rain.

Fifth seed Richard Gasquet is in action on Tuesday.

Federico Coria and Jeremy Chardy, along with Serbian Pedja Krstin, progressed into the second round in Belgrade on Sunday.

Coria came from a set down to win 4-6 6-2 6-0 in the first-round match in the Serbia Open against ATP Tour debutant Marko Topo.

Chardy overcame Tennys Sandgren 6-4 6-2. The Frenchman started the season well, and managed two semi-final runs, but has been out of form in recent competitions and was knocked out in the first round at the Madrid Masters earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Pedja Krstin made home advantage count against Kwon Soonwoo.

The trio will be joined in the second round by top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic, who received a first-round bye and is in the hunt for his third title in Belgrade.

At the Parma Open, American Tommy Paul reeled off a 7-5 6-4 win over Stefano Travaglia, and Flavio Cobolli beat Marcos Giron 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4).

Stefanos Tsitsipas teed himself up for the French Open in dominant fashion as he claimed his second title of 2021 with a straight-sets win over Cameron Norrie at the Lyon Open. 

Tsitsipas looked sharp throughout the week in central France and was in clinical form on Sunday, pouncing on some minor mistakes from Norrie to triumph 6-3 6-3. 

Norrie was by no means an easy opponent, but five double faults handed Tsitsipas an edge he duly made the most of. 

This year's Monte Carlo champion had to claw back three break points in the opening game of the match but was firmly in control from then on. 

A break to make it 5-3 enabled the Greek to serve for the first set – an opportunity he took at the first time of asking – and another clinical break put him 4-3 up in set two.  

Tsitsipas' third and final break came on the second match point on offer, with Norrie overhitting a forehand to seal the world number five's 33rd Tour win of the season.  

Having dropped just one set throughout his run this week, Tsitsipas will now switch focus to Roland Garros, where he reached the semi-finals in 2020.  

"I felt in a good shape from the beginning of the tournament, felt like things were going my way," he said in a post-match interview.  

"I'm proud of today's match. I knew it would be a difficult one against Cameron who has played great this week, winning against good players and showing what his left hand can do on clay. I had to handle the nerves and I'm proud of my performance and the way I stayed focused.  

"It's about getting there [Paris] as early as possible, getting in practice and getting in shape for the big Parisian grand slam which I adore and love. Hopefully, something good can come out of it." 

Stefanos Tsitsipas was happy to be kept "humble" as he needed three sets to defeat teenager Lorenzo Musetti in the Lyon Open semi-finals.

The world number five won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo and reached the final in Barcelona before cruising into the last four in France without dropping a set.

However, he was forced to come from behind to beat Musetti 4-6 6-3 6-0 on Saturday to set up a showdown with Cameron Norrie.

Musetti, who broke into the top 100 for the first time this year after losing to Tsitsipas in the semi-finals in Acapulco, broke at 2-2 in the opening set as he caused havoc with drop shots.

It was not until Tsitsipas moved 5-3 ahead in the second set that the Italian's resistance finally seemed to break as he failed to win another game.

"It was important I had a match like this," Tsitsipas said. "It makes me stay humble and focus on some detailed things I can potentially improve and get better at on clay.

"I had to stay calm. It was difficult to be a set down and have to kind of refresh myself and come anew in the second set. He was still putting [in] a lot of work and making me work for every single point. It wasn't easy."

Tsitsipas will contest the final against Norrie, who got better as the day wore on across his quarter-final and semi-final matches.

Norrie concluded a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Arthur Rinderknech before dispatching eighth seed Karen Khachanov 6-1 6-1 in superb fashion.

"Everything was working well: serving well, returning well, anticipating the ball well," said the 25-year-old, who reached his second Tour final at this year's Estoril Open.

"I came forward when I needed to and was aggressive with good depth. It was nice to come through like that.

"I had a tough loss in my last final so it's nice I can get another opportunity so soon. It's going to be tough against Stefanos. He's in the zone as well, so it's going to be an interesting final."

Stefanos Tsitsipas insists it must be purely business when he tackles Italian teenager and fellow tennis artisan Lorenzo Musetti in the Lyon Open semi-finals.

Ahead of a tilt at the French Open, for which he is among the favourites, world number five Tsitsipas has been tuning up his game at this week's ATP 250 tournament.

The Greek star was sharp in posting a 6-3 6-4 win over Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, and 19-year-old Italian Musetti awaits him on Saturday.

Tsitsipas dropped just four games when he crushed Musetti in an Acapulco semi-final in March, but he senses more of a threat this time from the exciting youngster.

"We played in different conditions. Acapulco was a hardcourt match and with altitude," said Tsitsipas, speaking on Amazon Prime. "The conditions here are different. He's someone who enjoys playing on clay.

"We share a similar game style I think with a one-handed backhand, which is beautiful to see, but tomorrow it's going to be serious business I knew he can play good on this surface. I know he can elevate his game, so it's important for me to be in the semi-finals."

Musetti overcame Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in their quarter-final, scrambling through a chaotic second set in which he trailed 5-2 at one stage but then reeled off four straight games, only to fail to serve out.

Thankfully for the youngster, he pulled through the tie-break.

"It was a crazy end," said Musetti. "I was 6-5 up, and at 30-30 played a really bad volley and hit an underarm serve. Sometimes I go out of my mind. I am really proud of myself as I was 2-5 down in the second set and I stayed focused. I tried to play each point at my best."

Russian Karen Khachanov marked his 25th birthday with a 6-1 7-6 (7-3) win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet, veteran doyen of the single-handed backhand.

Khachanov faced a wait to learn who he must face in the semi-finals, however, with Cameron Norrie and Arthur Rinderknech level at one set all overnight, after rain forced an early end to play.

At the Geneva Open, Norway's Casper Ruud will tackle Canadian Denis Shapovalov in Saturday's final.

Ruud saw off Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-3 6-2, while Shapovalov earned a 6-4 7-5 win against Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas.

Nikoloz Basilashvili won a fifth ATP Tour title as he triumphed at the BMW Open on Sunday.

The Georgian completed an impressive week in Munich by beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to clinch the trophy without dropping a set in his five matches.

The win continued what has been a solid 2021 for Basilashvili, who won the title in Doha in March after defeating Roger Federer in his second match following his return from injury.

After retiring from his opening match in Monte Carlo last month before losing to Jeremy Chardy in Barcelona, the world number 35 had looked in fine form in Munich before battling to victory against Struff in just under 86 minutes.

"It wasn't easy and I was super-tight at the end," said Basilashvili. "It was very difficult. It's never easy playing Jan, he's a very big fighter and serves really well.

"I am super happy. It seems like German conditions suit me. This is my fifth [ATP Tour] title and it will give me confidence for the upcoming tournaments."

At the Estoril Open, Albert Ramos-Vinolas emerged victorious from a marathon final against Cameron Norrie.

The 33-year-old was a set and a break down but rallied to win 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in two hours and 44 minutes in Portugal.

It was the Spaniard's third Tour title and took him to a 16-5 record on clay this season. He has at least seven more wins on the surface than any other ATP player this season.

Jan-Lennard Struff is through to his first final on the ATP Tour after ending Ilya Ivashka's impressive run at the BMW Open in Munich.

Struff had lost in his previous seven semi-final appearances and it appeared the streak may continue when he quickly fell 3-0 behind against his opponent from Belarus.

However, qualifier Ivashka – who had knocked out top seed Alexander Zverev in the previous round – only managed to win two more games in the remainder of a contest that spanned 87 minutes.

A 6-4 6-1 win for Struff sets up a showdown with Nikoloz Basilashvili, who crushed Casper Ruud 6-1 6-2 to progress through from the other half of the draw.

"I am happy to have reached my first final on home soil in Germany and I will try my best tomorrow," seventh seed Struff said after Saturday's match.

Both Basilashvili and Ruud had completed their quarter-final ties earlier on Saturday, but it was the former who coped better with a quick return to action on the clay court, easing to victory in 71 minutes.

At the Estoril Open, Cameron Norrie moved a step closer to a first ATP title after withstanding a barrage of aces to overcome the big-serving Marin Cilic in two sets.

Norrie managed to save five of the six break-point opportunities on his own serve as he eventually prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. His only previous experience of a final on the ATP Tour came back in 2019, when he lost to Tennys Sandgren at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

"[Marin] was serving great and it was really tricky to get his first serve back. I am fortunate to get through and I am just happy to be in my second final," the Briton said in his on-court interview.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the last player standing in his way, the Spaniard battling back after losing his serve in both sets to beat compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1 6-4.

Matteo Berrettini outlasted Aslan Karatsev in an entertaining Serbia Open final on Sunday to win his fourth ATP Tour title.

Karatsev stunned world number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday to reach the final, though the Russian fell just short of claiming another scalp as he slipped to a 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-0) defeat to Berrettini.

Second seed Berrettini could not take a first championship point in a third set that went the distance, but he held his nerve to add to his previous title triumphs at the Swiss Open, Hungarian Open and Stuttgart Open.

Berrettini held serve throughout the first set and broke his opponent in the fourth and sixth games to grab an early foothold in the contest.

But Karatsev, 18 places below world number 10 Berrettini in the ATP rankings, hit back in the second set to pave the way for a tense decider in Belgrade.

The big-hitting pair, competing against each other for the first time on the tour, managed a break of serve each before Italian Berrettini had match point in a gruelling 12th game.

While Berrettini was denied by Karatsev on that occasion, the 25-year-old powered through the tie-break to complete his impressive return to form.

"This title is for my family. This is the first time that they are actually here to see me win the trophy even though it's my fourth one," Berrettini said in his on-court interview.

"This is a special one. We came a long way since I was a kid and they were bringing me everywhere, so I think they deserve to see this kind of tennis and this kind of level. I really love them.

"It's been a pleasure being here. I came here not with the best feelings. I came back from an injury and it's never easy to come back and play this kind of level, this kind of tennis."

World number one Novak Djokovic was full of praise for his Serbia Open semi-final conqueror Aslan Karatsev but bemoaned his own "low level" performance.

Karatsev got past Djokovic in the longest match of the 2021 ATP Tour in Belgrade, triumphing 7-5 4-6 6-4 on Saturday.

The match went for three hours and 25 minutes, with the Russian securing a spot in Sunday's final against 10th ranked Matteo Berrettini.

The Serbian had beaten Karatsev in the Australian Open semi-finals two months ago, with the 27-year-old Russian, who is now ranked 28th, returning the favour.

"From my side, I played on quite a low level, in my opinion," Djokovic said.

“[I had] some flashes of good quality tennis. I was fighting. That is a positive.

"I was really trying all the way [and] the crowd was great. They carried me and tried to lift me up, all the way to the end.

"Because of them, I think I won the second set. Unfortunately in the third, he was just the better player in the decisive moments. I had my chances, but that is sport."

Djokovic was gracious in defeat, offering a thumbs up immediately after Karatsev secured victory along with complimentary words to his opponent who saved 23 of 28 break points.

"Karatsev showed a lot of courage and that is why I gave him the thumbs up," Djokovic said.

"I felt like he deserved to win… Once the final point is done, there is never bad blood. We are rivals on the court, but I don’t hate anybody. I can’t be upset with him if he beat me.

"I have to be upset with myself and question why I lost the match. Whoever beats me deserves the credit and I gave him that.

"I lost to a better player who was just more courageous. He went for his shots at the right time and it worked for him."

Aslan Karatsev secured a stunning career-best victory over home favourite Novak Djokovic to set up a Serbia Open final against Matteo Berrettini.

Karatsev showed astonishing defiance to beat the world number one 7-5 4-6 6-4 in the longest ATP Tour match of the year on Saturday.

The third seed from Russia saved 23 of the 28 break points he faced as his aggressive approach paid off, toppling the 18-time grand slam champion in a contest that lasted three hours and 25 minutes.

It was sweet revenge for Karatsev, who was beaten by the legendary Serbian at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open two months ago.

Djokovic had won 11 matches in a row in his homeland, but bowed out despite being 2-0 up in the first two sets as a solitary break in the decider ended his run.

Karatsev, the world number 28, said: "It was a long, tough match [against a] tough opponent.

"You have to put [in] like 200 per cent to beat this guy, it's like playing against a wall. And he also made some good shots.

"He doesn't give you any free points. He always makes you play and you have to be always there because once you miss a couple of shots, he just takes it very quickly. That’s how I lost the second set."

Berrettini secured his place in the final with a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 victory over lucky loser Taro Daniel.

Second seed Berrettini only lost six points in the last set after Daniel came from a break down in the second before winning a tie-break to take the second semi-final the distance.

Heading into Sunday's final, Karatsev and Berrettini have never previously faced each other on the ATP Tour.

 

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