World number one Daniil Medvedev strolled to victory for his first title of the year at the Los Cabos Open with a 7-5 6-0 demolition of reigning champion Cameron Norrie on Saturday.

The Russian, returning to hard-court tennis in Mexico this week ahead of his US Open title defence, pulled away after an injury timeout late in the first set to comfortably triumph against the 12th-ranked Briton.

Medvedev won every game after the timeout, taken for treatment on a hand issue, after scores were locked at 5-5, with both players having broken serve in the first set.

The third-seeded defending champion had no answers in a lopsided second set which only lasted 26 minutes.

This year's Australian Open runner-up, playing in his fourth final of the season, sent down 5-0 aces and converted six of 10 break points for the match to secure his 14th career title. He was exceptional on serve, with a 67 per cent first-serve win percentage.

The triumph capped an excellent week for Medvedev, who did not drop a set across five wins.

"Every match was very good, but the final match is always special," Medvedev said on court after the match. "It's always a high-level match and I'm really happy I managed to show some good levels and play some good shots."

Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios will take on unseeded Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka in the Washington Open final on Sunday after maintaining his unblemished record at this year's event with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Mikael Ymer on Saturday.

Kyrgios, who won in Washington DC in 2019, had played twice on Friday following rain delays on Thursday but found his passage through with 10 aces including one on match point to secure victory in one hour and 34 minutes.

"I didn’t play anywhere near my best tennis today," Kyrgios said. "I served pretty solid, but from the back of the court I didn’t play well at all. I'm just happy to be in the final once again."

Kyrgios is yet to drop serve throughout this year's tournament and has knocked off seeds Francis Tiafoe, Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul along the way.

The Australian will take on Nishioka who stunned top seed Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 20 minutes to secure a spot in his third career final, beating a top 10 opponent for the third time in his career.

Rublev blasted 21-8 winners but also hit 31-14 unforced errors, with the Japanese's consistency proving enough for victory.

Nick Kyrgios started his Friday by finishing off his third-round win against Reilly Opelka, and his business was not finished until after 1am local time when he defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (14-12) 6-2 in the quarter-final.

Due to length rain delays on Thursday, Kyrgios was one of five players forced to abandon their matches and return to finish them first thing on Friday, with Kyrgios and Russia's Andrey Rublev the only two to successfully navigate both.

Tiafoe defeated Botic van de Zandschulp 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the morning, but Kyrgios' ability to keep his service games short was a decisive factor, winning the ace count 35-14 and not conceding a single break all match.

Rublev had to deal with Maxime Cressy in the morning, winning 6-4 7-6 (10-8), setting up a quarter-final later at night against J.J. Wolf after the American defeated Holger Rune 7-5 4-6 6-3.

Rublev made his second match look far easier, cruising through 6-2 6-3 to earn a semi-final against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka after he needed over three-and-a-half hours to beat Daniel Evans 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-5.

In an all-unseeded semi-final, Kyrgios will play Sweden's Mikael Ymer, who fought his way past Sebastian Korda 6-2 5-7 6-3 after the American beat Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov 4-6 6-1 6-2 earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, down in Mexico at the Los Cabos Open, Daniil Medvedev earned his spot in the final by defeating Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (7-0) 6-1.

Medvedev will play England's Cameron Norrie for the title after he prevailed in arguably the match of the tournament against top-10 talent Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 3-6 6-3.

Nick Kyrgios barely broke a sweat on his way to a 6-3 6-2 win against Marcos Giron in the opening round of the Washington Open, finishing the job in an even 60 minutes.

The talented Australian, who won the doubles title at last week's Atlanta Open with compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis, showed off his imposing serve against Giron. He won the ace count 12-to-four, while converting 82 per cent (28-of-34) of his successful first serves into points.

Earlier in the day, Daniel Evans won an all-English showdown against Kyle Edmund 6-1 6-2, but fellow Englishman Jack Draper was not so lucky against Russia's Andrey Rublev, going down 6-4 6-2.

Winner of the singles title at the Atlanta Open, Jenson Brooksby could not keep his strong form going as he lost 6-4 6-3 to Yoshihito Nishioka. Mackenzie McDonald lost to Brooksby in Atlanta, and he was also bounced in the first round by Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori 1-6 6-4 6-4.

America's Chris Eubanks won a tough three-setter against France's Benjamin Bonzi 3-6 6-3 7-5, and Sebastian Korda passed the test of in-form Ilya Ivashka 6-4 7-6 (7-5).

Veteran Jack Sock got the better of Belgium's David Goffin 7-6 (7-4) 6-4, and the Netherlands' Botic van de Zandschulp fought off frisky Croatian Borna Gojo 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 to narrowly avoid an upset from a player ranked 170 spots lower.

Meanwhile, at the Los Cabos open in Mexico, Kokkinakis continued his march back up the rankings with a 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 win against Fernando Verdasco.

Kokkinakis will play American Steve Johnson in the second round after he collected a straight sets 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win against Argentina's Gonzalo Villanueva.

Romania's Radu Albot defeated Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to book his place in the second round against Australian Jason Kubler, who won his 10th match from his past 12 fixtures to beat Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-1.

The only Mexican in the draw, Alex Hernandez, made the most his wildcard to win his first tour-level match, defeating Nicolas Barrientos 3-6 6-4 6-4 to become the first Mexican player to win at Los Cabos.

Facundo Bagnis was the only of the three Argentines to make it through, with a 6-3 6-1 win over Ernesto Escobado, Brandon Nakashima defeated Kaichi Uchida 7-6 (7-1) 6-2, and Jordan Thompson rounded out the day's action with a comfortable 6-3 6-0 triumph over Yannick Hanfmann.

Andrey Rublev crashed out of the Hamburg European Open in straight sets against Francisco Cerundolo, as top seed Carlos Alcaraz cruised past Filip Krajinovic to reach the quarter-finals.

Second seed Rublev was the latest scalp of Cerundolo's fine run of form, the Argentine making it seven consecutive wins by wrapping up a 6-4 6-2 success in just an hour and a half in Germany.

Having furthered his momentum with a second top-10 win in as many weeks, Cerundolo said: "It is the first time it has happened for me. I am playing against the top guys and I am playing well, it is unbelievable."

Cerundolo will face Aslan Karatsev in the last eight after he recovered from a set down to beat Daniel Elahi Galan 3-6 6-3 6-4.

World number six Alcaraz fared better than Rublev, registering a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win over Krajinovic to tee up a final-four meeting with Karen Khachanov, who beat Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

Meanwhile, a host of big names including Casper Rudd and Matteo Berrettini reached the last eight of the Swiss Open in Gstaad, as Dominic Thiem continued his revival with a win over Federico Delbonis.

Thiem reached his second quarter-final in as many weeks with an impressive 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 triumph despite letting a 5-2 lead slip in the opener, registering his first tour-level straight-sets victory since May 2021.

Having set up a meeting with Juan Pablo Varillas, the 2020 US Open champion beamed: "I have won two matches which means a lot to me right now, I really need those ranking points. Every match win is something very special."

The Austrian will be joined in the next round by first and second seeds Ruud and Berrettini, who eased past Jiri Lehecka and Richard Gasquet respectively.

Spanish duo Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pedro Martinez also both progressed to the last eight despite dropping a set, with the latter setting up an enticing clash with Berrettini on Friday.

Pablo Carreno Busta saw his title defence at the Hamburg European Open come to an early end as he crashed out on Wednesday, while Andrey Rublev progressed with ease.

Carreno Busta fell to a 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7-5) second-round defeat against Slovakian Alex Molcan, who progressed to a fourth ATP Tour quarter-final this season.

World number 48 Molcan will next meet Borna Coric after the Croatian eased past Tallon Griekspoor 6-3 6-4, registering back-to-back tour-levels wins for the first time in 17 months.

Second seed Rublev coasted through his first-round clash with Ricardas Berankis, triumphing 6-3 6-4 as he improved his record at the ATP 500 clay-court event in Germany to 10-2.

"I am happy with my performance. Ricardas is a really tough player," said world number eight Rublev, who is aiming for his fourth title of the season after success in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade.

"He hits the ball really hard and plays fast, so I had to bring intensity from the first game. I am really happy with how I was serving today and I hit some great shots from the baseline.

"The game he broke me in the second set he played really well. He returned really aggressively and I don’t think I made one first serve. But then I kept [my] focus and broke him straight away again."

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was another comfortable winner, easing past Jozef Kovalik 6-2 6-2 to set up a quarter-final contest with Lorenzo Musetti, who beat Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4 7-5.

Play was suspended early at the Swiss Open due to bad weather, with Spaniard Jaume Munar downing Alexander Ritschard 6-3 6-3 in the only match of the day to reach the last eight.

That meant top seed Casper Ruud will have to wait until Thursday to face Jiri Lehecka in Gstaad, with third favourite Roberto Bautista Agut also seeing his match with Juan Pablo Varillas pushed back a day.

Maxime Cressy will face Alexander Bublik in the final of the Hall of Fame Open after beating four-time champion John Isner on Saturday.

Cressy will play his third championship match of the year on Sunday following a 6-2 4-6 6-3 defeat of his fellow American in Newport.

The 25-year-old fired down 22 aces and won 82 per cent of points behind his first serve, breaking three times to move into the final.

Cressy had a stroke of luck for the only break of the deciding set, when he lobbed a shot just over the net and it bounced back onto his side to leave Isner 5-3 down. He then served out the match to end Isner's 10-match winning run in this event.

Bublik sealed his place in the final with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Jason Kubler.

Third seed Bublik did not face a break point and broke the Australian three times, sealing his victory in an hour and nine minutes.

There will be an all-Argentinian final at the Swedish Open between Francisco Cerundolo and Sebastian Baez.

Baez produced an upset, securing his first win against a top-10 opponent with a 6-2 6-4 defeat of second seed Andrey Rublev in Bastad.

Cerundolo got the better of Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 6-2, ensuring he will face his compatriot for the first time at tour-level.

 

 

Novak Djokovic has slipped to seventh in the ATP Tour rankings despite winning Wimbledon, where ranking points were stripped in this year's tournament.

Players from Russia and Belarus were banned from competing at the third major of the year due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP and WTA retaliated by stripping ranking points from the event at the All England Club, where the likes of world number one Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev did not feature.

Moscow-born Elena Rybakina, who switched to represent Kazakhstan four years ago, lifted the women's title in the singles competition, while Djokovic triumphed for a fourth straight time in the men's event.

Yet, Djokovic has lost 2,000 rankings points – the standard total awarded to a grand slam singles champion – after winning in SW19 last year, with no such rewards available on this occasion.

That meant the Serbian has dropped from third place to seventh, his lowest position since August 2018 when he fell to 10th.

Djokovic moved within just one major title of Rafael Nadal's record of 22 grand slams, and the Spaniard has jumped up one spot to third.

Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are unmoved as the respective top two after losing just 180 rankings points in the latest edition. Both missed Wimbledon, with the Russian banned and the German still injured.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz make up the top six after climbing a place each, while Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner are the trio behind Djokovic.

Nick Kyrgios appeared in his maiden major final against Djokovic at Wimbledon as world number 40, the lowest-ranked grand slam male finalist since Marcos Baghdatis (54) at the Australian Open in 2006.

Just a day later Kyrgios has dropped five places to 45th in the rankings, losing 90 points from his third-round berth last year. If the ban was not imposed, the Australian would have broken into the top 20.

Cameron Norrie is another loser from the ranking points fallout. His run to the semi-finals at the London major would have seen him climb to eighth, but instead he has to settle for 11th.

Andrey Rublev was a surprise first-round loser at the Halle Open, while numerous seeds fell on the first day of the Queen's Club Championships.

Rublev came unstuck against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, succumbing to a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 loss as the world number eight crashed out in Germany.

Laslo Djere progressed after Henri Squire retired when 4-3 down, while sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta secured a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) over French Open quarter-finalist Holger Rune.

Ugo Humber got the better of a topsy-turvy affair against qualifier Radu Albot, eventually triumphing 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 and Mackenzie McDonald defeated Marc-Andrea Huesler in straight sets.

Fourth favourite Taylor Fritz went down 6-3 6-3 against British wildcard Jack Draper, his first career win against a top-20 ranked player.

Reilly Opelka, the eighth seed, crashed out in the first round to New Zealand's Alex de Minaur, who claimed a straightforward 6-4 6-4 win.

Grigor Dimitrov, who won the event in 2014, battled past third seed Cameron Norrie 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-4, while Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina eased past compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5 6-4.

Alexander Bublik was 6-3 up before Italian Lorenzo Musetti retired, while seventh seed Marin Cilic capped the day's play in London by beating home hope Liam Broady 6-1 4-6 7-5.

Marin Cilic beat Andrey Rublev in a five-set classic on Court Philippe-Chatrier to reach the French Open semi-finals for the first time.

The 2014 US Open winner produced an incredible quarter-final display as he dominated a final-set super tie-break to down the Russian 5-7 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6 (10-2) after four hours and 10 minutes of absorbing tennis.

The win means the Croatian, the 20th seed at this year's edition of Roland Garros, has reached at least the semi-finals of all four grand slams, with the French Open the only major at which he has yet to reach a final.

Rublev enjoyed the upper hand early on, claiming the first set with a display of clinical serving and forcing the all-important break in Cilic's final service game, as the seventh seed failed to give up a single break point during a strong start. 

But Cilic bounced back in the second, breaking with a big forehand winner in Rublev's first game on serve before clinging on in a series of drawn-out service games of his own.

The 33-year-old had to be more patient in the third, breaking in game seven with a winner to end a 16-shot rally to turn the match on its head, only for Rublev to fight back to force a decider.

The Russian won 92 per cent of first-serve points during a big-hitting fourth set, finally breaking in the eighth game before neither player could convert their one break point apiece in the decider, as an epic encounter required the use of the newly introduced super tie-break.

After four hours of intense back-and-forth, Cilic produced a classy display to blow a visibly frustrated Rublev away, claiming the tie-break 10-2 to set up a final-four meeting with either Casper Ruud or Holger Rune.

Speaking after the win, Cilic hailed the quality on display during the titanic tussle, saying: "It was an incredible battle and Andrey played incredibly well. It was an incredible performance [from both players].

"There was a lot of heart and one had to go down. Today was my day, but Andrey also played an incredible match, bad luck to him.

"Unfortunately I lost that fourth set, I thought I was close to getting the break at some points and Andrey played some great games, but when you play this long there's always going to be ups and downs."

Data Slam: Cilic joins greats in completing semi-final set

Cilic's superb win made him just the fifth active men's player to have reached at least the semi-finals at each of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, after world number one Novak Djokovic and former number ones Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Cilic - 88/71

Rublev - 35/31

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Cilic - 33/2

Rublev - 15/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Cilic - 2/7

Rublev - 2/8

Andrey Rublev is unsure what the best course of action is ahead of Wimbledon, but hopes tennis can "work together" to ensure the grand slam goes ahead, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic targeting history. 

Wimbledon was last week stripped of its ranking points by the WTA and ATP over the decision from The All England Club to ban Belarusian and Russian players – including Rublev – from competing.

That decision was made in the midst of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

With ranking points now not on offer, several high-profile players, including former WTA number one Naomi Osaka, have suggested they may skip the tournament.

Rublev might have no choice not to compete at Wimbledon, unless The All England Club scraps the ban altogether, but he says it is of utmost importance that tennis comes together to find a solution.

And Rublev believes the very elite players – such as Nadal and Djokovic – will compete anyway, regardless of ranking points or prize money, as he suggested tennis owes the duo, along with fellow great Roger Federer.

He told a news conference: "I don't know, because I haven't talked with any player about it, especially top ones. I guess the top players, especially Rafa, Novak, they are not playing now for points or for money.

"They are playing to be the first in history who achieve this amount of slams. So they are playing for a different thing. That's why it's very important to work together, to keep this amazing glory that we are having now, because of these players.

"If we are not going to work together, we just destroy it. What Roger, what Rafa, what Novak is doing, they did all these years. 

"They are other players from another generation, and we have to respect this, and that's why somehow we need finally to defend each other. Players need to defend the tournaments. Tournaments need to defend the players.

"Like this, tennis will grow, grow, grow a lot, because now all the success of tennis is only because of these three players, because of Roger, Rafa and Novak."

Rublev came through his first-round match at Roland Garros on Tuesday, defeating Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 6-4.

However, the seventh seed lashed out after losing the first set, recklessly hitting a ball out onto the court as he approached his chair, before slamming a water bottle into the court in frustration.

"I was quite tight, and I had a lot of emotions and I tried to really control them," Rublev said. 

"I tried to understand the situation. Be positive. I was able to be quiet and just be positive basically until the end of the first set. Then, yes, I lost my mind for a moment, and of course I regret what I did.

"It's unacceptable to hit the ball the way I hit it. It's more, I don't know, better even, if I just hit the racquet on the seat, because the ball can affect – I mean, it's not about me – it can affect someone. That's when the problem comes.

"This is unprofessional from my side, and hopefully I will never do it again."

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz are all on the same half of the draw at the French Open, while women's world number one Iga Swiatek will face a qualifier in the first round at Roland Garros.

Djokovic, who will make his Grand Slam return having missed the Australian Open, opens in Paris against Yoshihito Nishioka, while record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal meets Australia's Jordan Thompson.

The veteran pair of Djokovic and Nadal could challenge each other in the quarter-finals in the top half of the draw, where Alcaraz could come across world number three Alexander Zverev.

Alcaraz faces a qualifier in the first round and has won 16 of his last 17 matches, with the one blemish on his remarkable run coming against Sebastian Korda, who the Spaniard could meet in the third round.

Daniil Medvedev will have to get past Argentine Facundo Bagnis in the first round, while Lorenzo Musetti stands in the way of last year's runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev and Tsitsipas are joined in the wide-open bottom half of the draw by Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev, who meet home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon respectively.

In the women's draw, 2020 champion Swiatek comes in as favourite and will look to continue her 28-match winning streak when she faces a qualifier in the first round, as does US Open winner Emma Raducanu.

The Brit will then take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Wang Xinyu before a potential last-16 meeting with Ons Jabeur, who first has to get past Poland's Magda Linette.

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova – who has a first-round clash with France's Tessah Andrianjafitrimo – could set up a quarter-final meeting with Swiatek, but the Pole may have to get past Simona Halep in the fourth round first.

Defending champion Barbora Krejcikova starts against Diane Parry, while Naomi Osaka was drawn against the in-form Amanda Anisimova, who beat the Japanese in the third round of the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal saved four match points before seeing off David Goffin 6-3 5-7 7-6 (11-9) to book his place in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.

A five-time champion in the Spanish capital, Nadal is looking to match Novak Djokovic's career record of 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles this week.

Returning to action for the first time since losing to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final, after which he discovered he had a stress fracture of a rib, Nadal was taken all the way by Goffin.

Indeed, the Belgian qualifier won four straight games from 5-3 down in the second set to force a decider, but he saw four opportunities to advance to the quarter-finals go begging.

Nadal subsequently prevailed to reach his 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final, setting up a last-eight showdown with teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Birthday boy Alcaraz, who turned 19 on Thursday, celebrated with a hard-earned 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Britain's Cameron Norrie.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev reached his fifth successive quarter-final at this event after beating Lorenzo Musetti, who retired with a thigh injury shortly after losing the opening set, at 6-3 1-0 down.

Next up for Zverev is Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Rotterdam Open champion, who is targeting a first clay-court Masters 1000 semi-final. Auger-Aliassime won 90 per cent of points on first serve in a commanding 6-1 6-2 victory over Jannik Sinner.

Stefanos Tsitsipas also produced a strong-serving display in his 6-3 6-4 triumph over Grigor Dimitrov. Last season’s French Open runner-up hit 10 aces along the way.

The fourth seed set up a showdown with Andrey Rublev, who had eight aces as he overcame Dan Evans 7-6 (9-7) 7-5.

Meanwhile, Hubert Hurkacz will play Djokovic in the last eight after hitting 16 aces in his 7-5 6-3 win over Dusan Lajovic. Djokovic's much-anticipated clash with Andy Murray was called off, with the Briton unwell, handing his Serbian rival a walkover.

Novak Djokovic set up a last-16 clash with Andy Murray at the Madrid Open, impressing in a straight-sets victory over Gael Monfils while Murray overcame Denis Shapovalov.

The 20-time grand slam champion eased to a 6-3 6-2 win in the Spanish capital, assuring him of a record-extending 369th week at the top of the ATP world rankings and teeing up a mouth-watering contest with one of his greatest rivals.

The Serb hailed his victory as representing his best performance of 2022, saying he was pleased with his progress after falling to a final defeat against Andrey Rublev on home soil in last month's Belgrade Open.

"[It was] probably the best match of the year so far for me," Djokovic told Tennis TV after the win. "I haven't played many matches and am still finding my groove.

"But [it's] a very good win against a very tricky opponent. I had a week, 10 days to get ready for this match, and for this tournament I have done everything I possibly can to build my fitness and also improve on all aspects of the game, on the court. 

"I'm really glad that it paid off, because I felt good on the court. It's the right process, and it's the right direction."

Djokovic will face Murray for the 37th time, and the first time since 2017's Qatar Open, after the three-time grand slam winner rolled back the years to overcome Shapovalov 6-1 3-6 6-2 in an absorbing two-hour contest later on Tuesday.

The duo are one of only two male pairs to have met in each of the four grand slam finals (along with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal), while Djokovic holds a 25-11 lead across their previous meetings and has won both of their two encounters at the Madrid Open, one of which was their first-ever meeting in 2006.

Elsewhere in the draw, it was a day of few shocks in Spain as seeds Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz ensured their own progress to the last 16.

Rublev recovered from a poor first-set showing to down Great Britain's Jack Draper 2-6 6-4 7-5, while home favourite Alcaraz remained on course for a potential meeting with compatriot Nadal after earning a 6-3 7-5 victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Finally, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3 3-6 6-4 in a competitive first-round affair to set up Wednesday's enticing last-32 clash with world number three Alexander Zverev.

Novak Djokovic ran out of puff in front of his adoring Belgrade public and suffered a third-set drubbing as he lost to Andrey Rublev in the Serbia Open final.

The world number one was beaten 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-0 by the Russian second seed, who drove a forehand past Djokovic on his third championship point.

Djokovic was seeking a third triumph at this tournament, and an 87th tour-level title of his career, but 24-year-old Rublev came out on top, scooping his third trophy of the year after previous successes in Dubai and Marseille.

Having been barred from playing in Australia and the United States in the early stages of the season, due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic was playing just his third tournament of the year.

He lost to Jiri Vesely in the Dubai quarter-finals and to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his clay campaign opener in Monte Carlo, and on home clay he won three matches from a set in arrears but could not make it four in a row.

Djokovic had worked hard to get back on level terms in Sunday's final after making a slow start, and he had two break points immediately in the third set.

Rublev saved both, the second with an audacious drop shot, on his way to taking the game, and he streaked through the rest of the decider.

This was just the second meeting on the ATP Tour between Djokovic and world number eight Rublev, with Djokovic having previously enjoyed a crushing hard court win at the ATP Finals in Turin last November.

Rublev, addressing Djokovic, said: "It's a big honour to play against you, to share a court for the second time.

"I hope to see you for many years, and we will have more battles which I would like.

"I feel so great here in Belgrade. It's a really nice city. It reminds me of a small Moscow. I really enjoy my time here and to win a title here I feel double special."

Novak Djokovic will chase the first title of his chaotic season when he tackles Andrey Rublev in the Serbia Open final on Sunday.

Playing in his home city of Belgrade, world number one Djokovic will be expected by many to carry off the trophy for a third time.

He scored a 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory over Russian Karen Khachanov in the first of Saturday's semi-finals.

Djokovic has made a habit of losing opening sets this week, rebounding from early deficits to beat fellow Serbians Laslo Dere and Miomir Kecmanovic on his way through to the last four, where it happened again.

The 34-year-old was able to recover and improve his career win-loss record to 13-2 at the clay-court tournament.

Djokovic, who has been prevented from playing events in Australia and the United States this year after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, believes he is gradually building up form and match fitness.

He said in an on-court interview: "I'm already feeling quite comfortable on the courts. I think the three matches that went all three sets gave me enough of the match play.

"I was running enough in order to be at my optimum best. I don't think the lack of matches now plays a role. Maybe it was the case three or four days ago, not today.

"But in terms of the audience, of course that's going to be a huge motivation boost for me, so I'm going to enjoy the crowd's support as much as I can and hopefully bring the title to Serbia."

Rublev, another Russian, beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2 6-2 in the second semi-final, saying it had been his best performance of the week.

The world number eight is relishing playing Djokovic, saying: "It's going to be fun. Tomorrow I have nothing to lose, I can go out and enjoy it. He plays at home, so it will be his moment. The best I can do is fight and try to do my best."

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