Banja Luka

Djokovic Passes Van Assche Test In Banja Luka

The Serbian is aiming for his third title of the season
April 19, 2023
Novak Djokovic in action at the Srpska Open. By ATP Staff

Top seed Novak Djokovic withstood an early challenge Wednesday at the Srpska Open, rallying from a set down to advance to the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 event.

The World No. 1 defeated French teen Luca Van Assche 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2 in a highly-entertaining second-round clash. After fighting back in the second set to level the match, Djokovic found himself down an early break in the third before going on to win the two-hour, 38-minute contest.

“It wasn’t easy,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “This would probably rank as the slowest court, slowest conditions I’ve ever played in, to be honest. I couldn’t penetrate through the court. I couldn’t put any ball past him.”

Djokovic increased his level by playing with more depth and testing Van Assche’s court coverage, often putting the #NextGenATP star on defence. With crowd support behind him, the 35-year-old stayed aggressive on return, which helped improve his season record to 17-2.

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The Serbian overcame early forehand errors after dropping the opening set, which Van Assche served for at 5-4 before Djokovic looked for more opportunities to dictate from the baseline to earn the break. But Van Assche stayed calm to later capture the first-set tie-break.

Djokovic soon found another gear that was only hindered by getting broken in the opening game of the decider. But the Belgrade native answered with a break of his own before closing out the second-round victory.

“He was on every single ball for a set-and-a-half until I started to get some rhythm going,” Djokovic said. “I’m happy with the way I finished the match. Of course I can always play better, but a win is a win.”

Aiming for his third title of the season (Adelaide, Australian Open), Djokovic will next meet countryman Dusan Lajovic or Frenchman Gregoire Barrere in the last eight.

A 93-time tour-level titlist, Djokovic will reach 1,050 tour-level match wins this week if he advances to the final. Only four other men in the Open Era have made that milestone: Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,251), Rafael Nadal (1,068) and Ivan Lendl (1,068).

Van Assche, 18, is the youngest player in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The teen displayed consistency from the baseline and quick speed in just his eighth tour-level match.

The Brussels-born player made rapid progress on the ATP Challenger Tour, collecting a trio of titles on the circuit before graduating to the ATP Tour. Since 2016, the only players to win at least three Challenger titles before their 19th birthday are Van Assche, Carlos Alcaraz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune.

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