Djokovic beats Khachanov to reach Serbia Open final, his first this year

World number one Novak Djokovic lost the first set 4-6 but then bounced back to win the second 6-1 before clinching the decider 6-2 to seal the victory in the semifinal that lasted one hour 59 minutes.

Novak Djokovic

World number one Novak Djokovic celebrates after his victory against Russia's Karen Khachanov at the Serbia Open in Belgrade on Saturday.   -  AP

World number one Novak Djokovic came back from a set down to beat Russia's Karen Khachanov to reach Serbia Open final on Saturday, his first this year.

Djokovic lost the first set 4-6 but then bounced back to win the second 6-1 before clinching the decider 6-2 to seal the victory in the semifinal that lasted one hour 59 minutes.

"As soon as the second set started I was just feeling the ball, particularly the backhand which was not working in the first set," said Djokovic.

"The second and third sets were the best two sets of the season for me. I used the crowd energy which was phenomenal, probably the best atmosphere that I played in my entire life."

In the final, Djokovic will be up against world number eight Andrey Rublev as the Russian comfortably defeated Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal.

READ: Djokovic digs deep again to reach Serbia Open semifinals

Since Djokovic had not taken the vaccine against Covid-19, he was barred from defending his Australian Open title and the warm-up events leading up to it.

His first appearance on tour this year was at the ATP500 event in Dubai in February where Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely stunned him 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals, which took away the number one ranking from the Serbian. Russia's Daniil Medvedev became the new world number one but Djokovic soon got the top ranking back courtesy of the Russian's poor performances at Indian Wells Masters and Miami Masters, where Djokovic again could not play due to his vaccination status.

Djokovic then played at Monte Carlo Masters where he received a bye in the opening round but lost to eventual runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in three sets.

(With inputs from AFP)

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