‘I would rate Novak Djokovic as the most fierce ever, but…’, says former No. 1

Novak Djokovic took longer than expected to beat Mats Moraing in the round of 16 of the ATP 250 tournament in Belgrade 2. The German, as a lucky loser, saved three match points in the first round and made it difficult for the 18-time champion yesterday of Slam. The Serbian, after some very close games, managed to take home the first set without too many worries, but in the second he was very nervous and gave his opponent more than one chance to get back into the game. In fact, Djokovic lost a break advantage twice just after winning it and had to approach the tie-break very carefully to win the match in straight sets. In the quarterfinals, Djokovic will face Federico Coria, who defeated Marko Topo and Pablo Cuevas in the previous two rounds. “I was broke twice in the second set, so I could probably have finished the job sooner,” Djokovic explained at a press conference. “But congratulations to my opponent for fighting hard and playing very well. He played very bravely and expressed very cheeky tennis. He played well and at times he put me in trouble. However, I am happy with this excellent start. I started 6-2 against a player I didn’t know and had never faced before. There are some aspects of the game that I have to polish and then I want to play a lot of games to be physically prepared for the battle. Thanks to his triumph against the German, Djokovic became the fifth most victorious player of the Open Era, overtaking Guillermo Vilas in 951. Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal managed to do better than him. “With these victories I was able to put my name in another record book,” confessed Djokovic proudly. “Being in the same position as Vilas and close to the great tennis legends makes me very happy and satisfied.”

Boris Becker opens up on Novak Djokovic

In an interview with the BBC, Novak Djokovic’s former coaches Boris Becker and Nikola Pilic, along with current coach Goran Ivanisevic, weighed in on the Serb’s career and prospects at Roland Garros this year, among other topics. “There’s the one on the court – the machine-like, Zen-like, businesslike competitor that wants to win no matter what,” the German said. “And then you’ve got the Novak Djokovic off the court, who is a sweetheart – loves his family, loves his charity, loves his country – and he would give you his last shirt if you needed one. So you have these two sides that fight with one another sometimes on the court and I think that’s why people sometimes don’t understand or criticise him (Novak Djokovic) because they see this fierce competitor that can be ugly at times. But it all comes from a good place. Nadal is ahead, in my book, because of the way he plays the game,” Becker said. “I would rate Federer as the most talented I have ever seen, I would rate Djokovic as the most fierce I have ever seen, but Nadal, boy, when he gets going and picks his shorts and the eyebrows, I wouldn’t want to play him on any surface.”

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