The top two seeds will do battle in the European Open final following commanding victories for Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman on Saturday.

Sinner, the number one seed, moved into his fifth final of the season with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of Lloyd Harris in Antwerp.

The 20-year-old Italian, who is in the hunt for a maiden ATP Finals spot, dominated Harris from the baseline and saved all three break points he faced.

There were only 16 unforced errors from the racket of the composed Sinner, who will be bidding to win his fourth title of the season on Sunday.

Sinner said: "I am very happy to be in the final. I just love playing here and love playing indoors, so hopefully I can play a great match again tomorrow."

Schwartzman ended 20-year-old American Jenson Brooksby's impressive run with a 6-4 6-0 victory.

The Argentinian struck 15 winners and secured five breaks as he marched into the championship match.

Russian second seed Aslan Karatsev will come up against Marin Cilic in his first final on home soil after knocking compatriot Karen Khachanov out of the Kremlin Cup.

Karatsev beat Khachanov 7-6 (9-7) 6-1, while sixth seed Cilic – a two-time winner of the tournament in Moscow – got the better of Ricardas Berankis 6-3 6-4.

Jenson Brooksby enhanced his growing reputation and set up showdown with Diego Schwartzman in the European Open semi-finals.

The 20-year-old American, who took a set off Novak Djokovic and rattled the world number one at the US Open, is shaping up as potentially his country's biggest hope for the future in the men's game.

Californian Brooksby crushed Spain's world number 44 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5 6-0, and second seed Schwartzman awaits after the Argentinian took down another 20-year-old American, Brandon Nakashima, scoring a 6-4 6-2 quarter-final win.

Schwartzman is the man who ended Andy Murray's hopes at the tournament in Antwerp.

Brooksby, who had to win two qualifying matches to reach the main draw, said: "Tomorrow will be a great match. I'm really looking forward to it. I'll get some rest tonight and get ready to battle again tomorrow."

The other semi-final will see Italian top seed Jannik Sinner take on South African seventh seed Lloyd Harris following their respective straight-sets wins over Arthur Rinderknech and Marton Fucsovics.


There will be an all-Russian semi-final at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, after Aslan Karatsev and Karen Khachanov won through to the final four.

Second seed Karatsev sank the hopes of Frenchman Gilles Simon, breaking serve five times on the way to a 6-4 6-3 win, while third-seeded Khachanov edged out Australian John Millman. A 7-5 7-6 (7-4) grind featured 19 aces by Khachanov, the 2018 Kremlin Cup champion, who saved four set points in the second set.

Marin Cilic thrashed Pedro Martinez 6-1 6-2 to set up a tussle with Ricardas Berankis, the Lithuanian ending Adrian Mannarino's run with a 6-2 7-6 (7-1) success. Frenchman Mannarino had stunned Russian top seed Andrey Rublev in the previous round.

Andrey Rublev's hopes of retaining the Kremlin Cup on home soil in Moscow are over after he suffered a surprise defeat to Adrian Mannarino.

Mannarino ultimately came out on top 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 but he had to do it the hard way, coming back from match point down to set up a meeting with Ricardas Berankis, who lost only tree games in a 6-2 6-1 win over Federico Coria.

Rublev was never cruising, however, as Mannarino only just fell short in the first set and then took the second to a tiebreak, which he eventually won to turn the tide.

The 33-year-old, who lost to Rublev in the final two years ago, took things up a notch in the decider and did not face a single break point as he got the job done despite the home support.

"The crowd was cheering for Andrey but that is normal," he said after reaching the quarter-finals. "I was happy to play with such a nice atmosphere.

"We have been playing for a long time without fans, so it is nice to enjoy a stadium with crowds now."

Second-seed Aslan Karatsev is now the favourite in Moscow, and the Russian had few issues in a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Egor Gerasimov.

Karatsev will face Gilles Simon next following his 6-3 6-2 win over Mackenzie McDonald, while Pedro Martinez won 6-3 6-4 over Filip Krajinovic to book his passage.

At the European Open in Antwerp, Andy Murray's hopes of winning a first ATP Tour title in two years were ended by number two seed Diego Schwartzman.

The Argentinian trailed 4-1 in the first set but fought back to win 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in his first ever match against the Scot, whose last tour triumph was in Antwerp.

In his on-court interview, Schwartzman said: "It was a pleasure to play against Andy. We had not played before and he is coming back and every week he is playing better and moving better.

"I have a lot of respect because when I grew up playing tennis, I was watching Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Andy and Novak [Djokovic] and right now playing against him is a pleasure for me."

Seventh seed Lloyd Harris is also into the quarter-finals after a straightforward 6-2 6-3 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff in just 72 minutes, Marton Fucsovics came through 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-1 against Roberto Bautista Agut and Brandon Nakashima edged past Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to earn the right to face Schwartzman.

Top seed Daniil Medvedev made quick work of Mackenzie McDonald in his opening match at the Indian Wells Masters, cruising to a 6-4 6-2 victory on Saturday.

Medvedev – the US Open champion – has lost only three of his last 41 sets, and has never dropped one to McDonald in five career meetings with the American as he maintained his red-hot form. 

Russian star Medvedev is now 37-5 on hardcourts this year and appears well-positioned to make it past the third round of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament for the first time as he awaits Filip Krajinovic.

"I'm actually really pleased, because usually I haven’t played well in Indian Wells and I haven’t been playing that well in practices before [the tournament]," Medvedev said in his on-court interview. "[I am] really happy with my performance. That’s the most important [thing] no matter how I played before the tournament."

RUBLEV ROLLS PAST TABERNER

Medvedev's countryman Andrey Rublev closed out the night session with a 6-3 6-4 defeat of Carlos Taberner, who was facing a top-10 opponent for the first time. 

Fourth seed and world number five Rublev won 66 per cent of points on his first serve and hit 30 winners to Taberner's 12. 

Rublev improved to 47-16 this season, 31-9 on hard courts, and will face Tommy Paul in the third round. 

 

SHAPOVALOV WINS IN NEAR-WALKOVER

Most of the seeded players in action had an easy time of it, none more so than Canadian ninth seed Denis Shapovalov.

Shapovalov's opponent and countryman Vasek Pospisil retired with an apparent back injury after dropping the first three games of the match. 

Sixth seed Casper Ruud blew past Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1 6-2, while eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz downed Alexei Popyrin 6-1 7-5. 

Diego Schwartzman had to work harder to advance, the 11th seed outlasting qualifier Maxime Cressy 6-2 3-6 7-5. 

Top-ranked American Reilly Opelka, the 16th seed, beat Taro Daniel 7-5 6-3 for his first main-draw victory at Indian Wells in four attempts. 

Daniel Evans also went the distance to defeat Kei Nishikori 4-6 6-3 6-4, while former world number three Grigor Dimitrov, 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev and Frances Tiafoe were among the other players to advance.

Andrey Rublev needed almost two hours but his punishing forehand helped him to victory over Diego Schwartzman in the San Diego Open quarter-finals on Friday.

Top seed Rublev won 6-1 7-5 in one hour and 52 minutes over the Argentine, who kept on coming throughout the contest.

The Russian world number five's victory books his spot in the last four where he will face Briton Cameron Norrie, who upset fourth seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3 6-1.

Rublev is featuring in his eighth semi-final of the calendar year and chasing his first title since winning in Rotterdam in February.

He had been a break up in the second set after dominating the first, but Schwartzman broke back.

The second set appeared destined for a tie-break with Schwartzman up 40-0 on serve at 5-6, before Rublev won the next five points to claim victory.

"The second set was very tough and enjoyable for the spectators to watch," Rublev said. "Every game was really tough with amazing points and the set could have gone either way."

Second seed Casper Ruud defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-1 6-4 to book his semi-final spot where he will meet Grigor Dimitrov who beat Aslan Karatsev in three sets.

Ruud's win improved his 2021 record to 45-12, with the 22-year-old Norwegian rising to a ranking of 10.

Andrey Rublev needed almost two hours but his punishing forehand helped him to victory over Diego Schwartzman in the San Diego Open quarter-finals on Friday.

Top seed Rublev won 6-1 7-5 in one hour and 52 minutes over the Argentine, who kept on coming throughout the contest.

The Russian world number five's victory books his spot in the last four where he will face Briton Cameron Norrie, who upset fourth seed Denis Shapovalov 6-3 6-1.

Rublev is featuring in his eighth semi-final of the calendar year and chasing his first title since winning in Rotterdam in February.

He had been a break up in the second set after dominating the first, but Schwartzman broke back.

The second set appeared destined for a tie-break with Schwartzman up 40-0 on serve at 5-6, before Rublev won the next five points to claim victory.

"The second set was very tough and enjoyable for the spectators to watch," Rublev said. "Every game was really tough with amazing points and the set could have gone either way."

Second seed Casper Ruud defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-1 6-4 to book his semi-final spot where he will meet Grigor Dimitrov who beat Aslan Karatsev in three sets.

Ruud's win improved his 2021 record to 45-12, with the 22-year-old Norwegian rising to a ranking of 10.

Andy Murray's stay in San Diego was short-lived, as the veteran fell to second seed Casper Ruud in straight sets Thursday. 

World number 10 Ruud prevailed 7-5 6-4 over the three-time grand slam winner, rolling to victory after a shaky start. 

Murray broke Ruud in the 22-year-old's second service game of the match, but could not maintain the advantage as Ruud converted five of six break points in the match. 

Ruud will face ninth seed Lorenzo Sonego, who defeated Sebastian Korda 6-4 6-3, saving six of seven break points against his own serve while converting all three of his chances on Korda's. 

Fourth seed Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (9-7) 6-2, saving six set points in the process. 

The Canadian moves on to a quarter-final meeting with Cameron Norrie, who downed Daniel Evans 7-6 (7-3) 6-3. 

Grigor Dimitrov dominated August Holmgren 6-1 6-1 in 56 minutes, winning 83 per cent of his service points.

Dimitrov next faces Aslan Karatsev, who rallied to upset fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz 5-7 6-4 6-2. 

Top seed Andrey Rublev brushed aside Brandon Nakashima in just over an hour to clinch a spot in the San Diego Open quarter-finals.

Rublev – the world number five – won 6-2 6-1 over local 20-year-old Nakashima at the ATP 250 tournament on Wednesday.

Nakashima claimed only two of 18 second serve points for the match, with Rublev breaking him six times and triumphing in one hour, two minutes midweek.

The result improves 2021 Australian Open quarter-finalist Rublev's record to 45-15 this calendar year.

Rublev will take on sixth seed Diego Schwartzman, who rallied to defeat Lloyd Harris 4-6 6-3 6-2 in San Diego.

Fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz moved into the next round with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 victory over Australian qualifier Alex Bolt.

Hurkacz will face Russian and 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev in the round of 16.

Daniel Evans – the eighth seed – overcame former Wimbledon and US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 after more than two hours on court.

Evans will meet countryman Cam Norrie next.

Brandon Nakashima has been one of the ATP Tour's hottest players throughout the hardcourt season, and he kept rolling Monday before a hometown crowd. 

The 20-year-old Nakashima rallied to defeat Italian veteran Fabio Fognini 6-7(5), 6-1, 7-5 in the first round at the San Diego Open, setting up a second-round matchup with top seed Andrey Rublev. 

After qualifying for the main draw at Wimbledon earlier this summer, Nakashima reached finals at Los Cabos and Atlanta in successive weeks, falling to John Isner in the latter finale. He then knocked Isner out of the US Open in the first round in straight sets. 

Monday, he won 80 per cent of the points on his first serve, dialling up eight aces to just one for Fognini, who also double faulted 11 times. 

Another Southern California native, Taylor Fritz, also advanced Monday, beating qualifier Salvatore Caruso 6-4 7-6 (2) to earn a second-round meeting with fourth seed Denis Shapovalov.

It was a welcome reprieve for the world number 39, who had lost five of his previous six matches dating to a quarter-final win over Reilly Opelka in Atlanta. 

Earlier, world number 24 Aslan Karatsev opened the day's action by defeating Federico Delbonis 6-1 7-5. 

Top seed Aslan Karatsev exited the Astana Open at the last-16 stage with a straight-sets defeat to Emil Ruusuvuori on Thursday.

World number 84 Ruusuvuori saved a set point in the first-set tie-break on his way to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 victory and will now face Ilya Ivashka for a place in the semi-finals.

There was nearly another upset as home hopeful Alexander Bublik, seeded second, had to recover from a set down to overcome Miomir Kecmanovic 2-6 6-3 7-5.

Carlos Taberner awaits Bublik in the next round after the Spaniard beat Egor Gerasimov 5-7 7-6(5) 7-5.

Kwon Soon-woo and James Duckworth saw off Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic respectively in straight sets to remain a course for glory.

At the Moselle Open in Metz, meanwhile, Gael Monfils took out Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(2) 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals on home soil.

Tournament favourite Hubert Hurkacz made light work of 2016 champion Lucas Pouille with a 6-2 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.

Elsewhere on Thursday, German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk proved too strong for Karen Khachanov and will now face Marcos Giron, who upset fourth seed Alex de Minaur.

Rafael Nadal has tipped Alexei Popyrin for greatness after being tested by the youngster in the opening match of his latest French Open title defence.

World number three Nadal saved two set points in the third set on his way to a well-earned 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory in Tuesday's contest at Roland Garros.

It means that only three players have taken a set from the Spaniard at the grand slam event since 2016 – Diego Schwartzman, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem.

Nadal's victory over Popyrin was his 31st in a row in Paris since 2015 and keeps him on course for a record-extending 14th triumph in the French capital.

The third seed was impressed by what he saw from his 21-year-old opponent, who showed admirable resistance by saving four break points to force a tie-break in the third set.

"With this serve, with these kinds of shots from the baseline, he has everything to become a top player," Nadal said. "If he wants to do it, of course he is going to have his chances, because he has a lot of very difficult things in his game.

"He has everything to become a great, or at least a fantastic player. Let's see. Let's see what is going on in the next couple of months and years."

Asked about his impressive record of rarely dropping a set, Nadal said: "We are playing best-of-five. The other player needs to win two more sets to beat you.

"I know I'm going to be there fighting for every single point. Of course I don't want to lose the set at all, but that's part of the game.

"I'm happy to win that third set. I don't know how I won it, but I did, and I'm glad."

RUBLEV BEATEN BY BIG-SERVING STRUFF

Nadal's path to another French Open title is a little clearer following seventh seed Andrey Rublev's surprise first-round exit to world number 42 Jan-Lennard Struff.

Rublev had reached the quarter-final stage at his previous three majors and was much fancied to go far in Paris, but he fell 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 6-4 to the big-serving Struff.

The German hit 25 aces on his way to beating a top-10 opponent at a grand slam for the first time, setting up a second-round meeting with Facundo Bagnis.

"I was feeling fine," Rublev said after the defeat. "I practiced well. I don't know why I lost. I think we played a good level today. I played a solid two sets, third and fourth, and then the fifth set.

"I think I should have won the second set, but this is tennis. I was serving for the set and I didn't make it, then in the tie-break I was a bit unlucky and he played well."

MONFILS ENDS SLAM DROUGHT

Fan favourite Gael Monfils battled back from a set down to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-4 and earn his first grand slam win since the 2020 Australian Open.

Monfils has struggled since tennis resumed last year after the coronavirus-enforced break, with Tuesday's win on home soil just his second this season.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev kicked off his French Open campaign with victory over Jenson Brooksby in three sets.

Tenth seed Schwartzman, who reached the last four in Paris last year, saw off Lu Yen-hsun 6-2 6-2 6-3 in his opening match.

Matteo Berrettini was made to work a little harder for his victory against Taro Daniel, the ninth seed advancing through 6-0 6-4 4-6 6-4.

There was an upset later in the day, though, as number 20 seed Felix Auger Aliassime was beaten in four sets by world number 98 Andreas Seppi.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Matteo Berrettini outlasted Aslan Karatsev in an entertaining Serbia Open final on Sunday to win his fourth ATP Tour title.

Karatsev stunned world number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday to reach the final, though the Russian fell just short of claiming another scalp as he slipped to a 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-0) defeat to Berrettini.

Second seed Berrettini could not take a first championship point in a third set that went the distance, but he held his nerve to add to his previous title triumphs at the Swiss Open, Hungarian Open and Stuttgart Open.

Berrettini held serve throughout the first set and broke his opponent in the fourth and sixth games to grab an early foothold in the contest.

But Karatsev, 18 places below world number 10 Berrettini in the ATP rankings, hit back in the second set to pave the way for a tense decider in Belgrade.

The big-hitting pair, competing against each other for the first time on the tour, managed a break of serve each before Italian Berrettini had match point in a gruelling 12th game.

While Berrettini was denied by Karatsev on that occasion, the 25-year-old powered through the tie-break to complete his impressive return to form.

"This title is for my family. This is the first time that they are actually here to see me win the trophy even though it's my fourth one," Berrettini said in his on-court interview.

"This is a special one. We came a long way since I was a kid and they were bringing me everywhere, so I think they deserve to see this kind of tennis and this kind of level. I really love them.

"It's been a pleasure being here. I came here not with the best feelings. I came back from an injury and it's never easy to come back and play this kind of level, this kind of tennis."

World number one Novak Djokovic was full of praise for his Serbia Open semi-final conqueror Aslan Karatsev but bemoaned his own "low level" performance.

Karatsev got past Djokovic in the longest match of the 2021 ATP Tour in Belgrade, triumphing 7-5 4-6 6-4 on Saturday.

The match went for three hours and 25 minutes, with the Russian securing a spot in Sunday's final against 10th ranked Matteo Berrettini.

The Serbian had beaten Karatsev in the Australian Open semi-finals two months ago, with the 27-year-old Russian, who is now ranked 28th, returning the favour.

"From my side, I played on quite a low level, in my opinion," Djokovic said.

“[I had] some flashes of good quality tennis. I was fighting. That is a positive.

"I was really trying all the way [and] the crowd was great. They carried me and tried to lift me up, all the way to the end.

"Because of them, I think I won the second set. Unfortunately in the third, he was just the better player in the decisive moments. I had my chances, but that is sport."

Djokovic was gracious in defeat, offering a thumbs up immediately after Karatsev secured victory along with complimentary words to his opponent who saved 23 of 28 break points.

"Karatsev showed a lot of courage and that is why I gave him the thumbs up," Djokovic said.

"I felt like he deserved to win… Once the final point is done, there is never bad blood. We are rivals on the court, but I don’t hate anybody. I can’t be upset with him if he beat me.

"I have to be upset with myself and question why I lost the match. Whoever beats me deserves the credit and I gave him that.

"I lost to a better player who was just more courageous. He went for his shots at the right time and it worked for him."

Aslan Karatsev secured a stunning career-best victory over home favourite Novak Djokovic to set up a Serbia Open final against Matteo Berrettini.

Karatsev showed astonishing defiance to beat the world number one 7-5 4-6 6-4 in the longest ATP Tour match of the year on Saturday.

The third seed from Russia saved 23 of the 28 break points he faced as his aggressive approach paid off, toppling the 18-time grand slam champion in a contest that lasted three hours and 25 minutes.

It was sweet revenge for Karatsev, who was beaten by the legendary Serbian at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open two months ago.

Djokovic had won 11 matches in a row in his homeland, but bowed out despite being 2-0 up in the first two sets as a solitary break in the decider ended his run.

Karatsev, the world number 28, said: "It was a long, tough match [against a] tough opponent.

"You have to put [in] like 200 per cent to beat this guy, it's like playing against a wall. And he also made some good shots.

"He doesn't give you any free points. He always makes you play and you have to be always there because once you miss a couple of shots, he just takes it very quickly. That’s how I lost the second set."

Berrettini secured his place in the final with a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 victory over lucky loser Taro Daniel.

Second seed Berrettini only lost six points in the last set after Daniel came from a break down in the second before winning a tie-break to take the second semi-final the distance.

Heading into Sunday's final, Karatsev and Berrettini have never previously faced each other on the ATP Tour.

 

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