On this day, 15 years ago, Novak Djokovic won his first ATP title in Amersfoort after prevailing against a former champion Nicolas Massu 7-6, 6-4 in a grueling two hours and 19 minutes. The Serb was one of the upcoming youngsters at the beginning of 2006, scoring two notable results in February at indoor events but struggling to find the best form in the forthcoming months and make faster progress on the ATP list. Between Rotterdam and Roland Garros, Djokovic claimed just two wins in the ATP events. However, that was about to change in Paris, with Novak advancing into the first Major quarter-final and battling for almost two hours with the defending champion Rafael Nadal before retiring after losing the second set. Following the fourth round at Wimbledon, the 19-year-old Serb returned to clay in Amersfoort and played great tennis to reach the final, ousting Boris Pashanski, Tomas Zib, Marc Gicquel and Guillermo Coria en route to the title match, the first in a career.
Novak took down Massu after a fantastic fight to conquer the first ATP crown and find himself in the top-30. Almost nothing could separate Djokovic and Massu, as Novak created the crucial gap in the most extended exchanges. A teenager repelled two out of four break chances and seized three out of ten opportunities on the return to overpower the more experienced rival in straight sets for his first ATP trophy. Both players struggled to find the first serve, and Novak drew more from his initial shot, with a similar performance on the second serve.
Novak Djokovic won the first ATP title in Amersfoort in 2006.
Djokovic made a good start, converting the fourth break point in game two when Nicolas missed a forehand for an instant advantage. A backhand down the line winner sent Novak 3-0 in front, and he held in game five to move 4-1 up. Massu was back on the positive side of the scoreboard after a forehand winner in game seven, holding at 15 with an ace in the next one to level the score at 4-4 and gain momentum after a slow start.
Djokovic lost the ground a bit in those moments and faced two break points in the ninth game, fending them off for an essential hold after another unreturned serve that pushed him ahead, forcing Massu to serve for staying in the set. The Chilean won that game and saved a break point with a volley winner at 5-6 to set up a tie break, giving his best to match the young opponent’s pace. Djokovic recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the breaker and grabbed it 7-5 after over 80 minutes of exhausting tennis, hoping for a similar outcome in set number two.
Carried by this boost, the youngster earned a break at the beginning of the second set but stayed in front only for a couple of minutes after netting a backhand in the next game to bring Massu back to business. Commanding holds on both sides were to follow before Novak broke again for a 4-3 advantage, firing a service winner to cement the lead and move closer to the finish line. The Chilean saved match points in game nine to prolong the encounter before spraying a forehand error at 4-5 to hand the win to Novak, who started a massive celebration in front of his coach Marian Vajda and girlfriend Jelena. Djokovic would be in another final in Umag a week later, retiring against Stan Wawrinka in the first set tie break due to breathing problems and competing in only two ATP events before October.