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Novak Djokovic reportedly suffered a frustrating practice session in Belgrade ahead of his first match against Laslo Djere. The world No 1 is desperate to get some match wins under his belt ahead of his French Open title defence, having crashed out of the Monte Carlo Masters in his opening round last week.
Djokovic practised with his conqueror from last year’s first edition of the Serbia Open, Aslan Karatsev, on Tuesday. Under the watchful eyes of Serbian tennis fans and journalists at his home tournament, the 20-time Major champion was said to have complained and shouted at his team, according to Blic.
The world No 1 has played just two events so far this season and gone 2-2 in wins and losses, and has admitted that he is hoping to play more matches at his own Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade than he did last week in Monte Carlo to gain some momentum. It seems the lack of competition is getting to Djokovic, as he let his frustrations show in the fiery practice session.
“I don’t see anything,” he complained to his team as the clay was blown around the court in windy conditions, also saying: “Clay flies in my eyes non-stop.” Djokovic also insisted on repeating every point he made a mistake on, clearly wanting to improve after admitting he suffered a “physical collapse” in his three-set loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
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While Karatsev was happy to keep going over points and fire balls at Djokovic as many times as he asked, the 34-year-old still appeared dissatisfied with his level as he continued to shake his head, and even shouted at coach Gorin Ivanisevic, demanding: “Please, tell me what to do.” The defending French Open champion was also asking Ivanisevic and physio Miljan Amanovic to bring him a towel after every point.
Djokovic has made no secret of the importance of his training in Belgrade, pushing back his pre-tournament press conference so he could get in sessions both before and after. “I’m sorry about that,” he told reporters at his presser. “I had four practices – twice fitness, twice tennis – so I was really tired. I need all the matches I can get here in order to prepare even better for Roland Garros.”
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Djokovic also admitted his mind was already on his upcoming French Open title defence, admitting he needed to prioritise his practice sessions after a poor showing in Monte Carlo. “Roland Garros is the quintessential clay-court tournament and I’m partly already there in my thoughts, in terms of preparation and everything I’m doing at the moment to get there as ready as I can be,” he said.
“I was not fully ready for the tournament in Monte Carlo and I knew that before the tournament started. However, I need match practice and this is the surface (clay) that requires a lot of time spent on the court during training sessions, and even more during matches. I hope to play more matches in Belgrade than in Monte Carlo.”
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