Russia’s Andrey Rublev defeated world number one Novak Djokovic at the Serbia Open in spectacular fashion. The 24-year-old took down the home town hero 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 at the ATP 250 clay-court event. But later Rublev also won the hearts of the audience with his splendid sportsmanship.
The Russian, who was asked to sign tennis balls for fans as a customary gesture politely declined this offer. Instead, Rublev requested that the balls should be given to Novak Djokovic to sign for his excited home crowd.
The world number eight denied the Djoker his third Serbia Open title. Rublev has now tied 2022 Australian open champion, Rafael Nadal, for the most tour-level titles in 2022 as he had won titles in Marseille and Dubai in February.
“It's an honour to share the court with you,” Rublev
Andrey Rublev praised his opponent Novak Djokovic and called as one of the most dominant players in tennis history. “You are one of the strongest tennis players in history. For me, it's an honour to share the court with you, I will never be able to do everything you have done,” he said.
“I hope you can continue playing for so many years, I can’t wait to face you again. In general, I feel so great here, it's amazing," he continued. "It's an amazing city and I really enjoy my time here and to win a title here, I feel double special. Hopefully, I see you next year,” he added.
“Belgrade and Serbia love you,” Djokovic
Novak Djokovic replied to the compliments and praised his younger counterpart and also urged him to come back to defend his title. “Belgrade and Serbia love you. Please come back to defend your title."
"Things are progressing slowly but surely, Paris is the big goal and hopefully, by Paris, I’ll be ready. 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,” continued 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.”