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Novak Djokovic in action against Andrey Rublev on Sunday in Belgrade.

Djokovic: 'Things Are Progressing Slowly But Surely'

World No. 1 was competing in his third tour-level event of the season in Belgrade

Despite losing to Andrey Rublev in the Serbia Open final on Sunday, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is aiming to take encouragement out of his run in Belgrade as he looks to build on his newfound momentum in the coming weeks.

“I have to look at the positives. [I] played the final in front of my home crowd," Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. "It was unfortunate that in the third set I ran out of gas and couldn’t give it more of a fight. Congrats to Andrey for playing another great week. He is at the top of the men’s game and one of the best players for a reason.

“I could have easily lost in the first match, so after four tough three-set battles all I can say is I am tired. Winning the tough three-set battles before this match will serve me well for the continuation of the season.

The Serbian fell to Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his opening match in Monte Carlo last week, but showed signs he is returning to form at the ATP 250 clay-court event, earning three hard-fought third-set wins to reach his maiden final of the season.

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Djokovic defeated Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov in front of his home support, but was unable to find one final push against Rublev as he faded in the deciding set, with the second seed triumphing 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0.

“I didn’t feel too tired until the end of the second set,” Djokovic said when reflecting on the match. “The 5-4 game was a long game and that is when I started to not feel great. I think I played well in the tie-break. I came out ready to fight another set, but it wasn’t [a] very pleasant thing for people to see on the court, so I am sorry for that kind of experience as I knew people wanted to see me fight and try and win. But it wasn’t to be this time.”

The 86-time tour-level titlist will continue to compete on Tour over the next month and while he is not 100 per cent happy with where his fitness levels are currently, he is pleased with the progress that he has made this week.

“At least this bad feeling physically came in the fourth match rather than the first match in Monte Carlo,” Djokovic said. “Things are progressing slowly but surely."

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