BELGRADE/STARNBERG, May 23, 2021
Only one day after the conclusion of the Serbia Ladies Open, players of the ATP Tour kicked off the €511,000 Belgrade Open hosted by the Novak Tennis Centre.
Local wild card entry Pedja Krstin headlined Sunday’s first-round matches by securing his first ATP main draw win. On a sunny and hot day with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius on Centre Court, the World No. 284 fought past Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
Krstin had previously qualified for ATP Tour events at the Zagreb Indoors 2014, the Kremlin Cup in Moscow the same year and in Houston 2019, but fell in the opening round of the main draw at all three occasions. This time, however, the 26-year-old advanced after one hour and 34 minutes. Krstin converted five of his seven break-point chances to secure victory.
“I am very happy to be here. I gave my best. I was down in the second set but I managed to recover in the third and started to play better and better,” a delighted Krstin said after the biggest win of his career.
Up next for the Mokrin native, who clinched an ATP Challenger Tour title at San Luis Potosi in Mexico five years ago, will be either fellow wild card entry Hamad Medjedovic or Slovakian qualifier Alex Molcan.
Coria battles past Topo, Djokovic back home
Later in the afternoon, Federico Coria overcame 17-year-old Serbian wild card entry Marko Topo, who made his debut on the ATP Tour, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. After a slow start, the World No. 94 began to dominate the encounter, winning 58 per cent of the total points played to advance after two hours and six minutes.
Coria will next play either Pablo Cuevas from Uruguay or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
Top seed Novak Djokovic, who celebrated his 34th birthday in Belgrade on Saturday, was watching the match from the stands.
“It was tough luck for Marko, who came into the tournament with slight back pain, which got worse today as the match went on,” Djokovic commented on the performance of his young fellow countryman ranked World No. 1,513.
“He showed fighting spirit and I am proud of him and I congratulated him on not giving up and showing a good attitude on court. I think this is very important for a young player being on a big stage like this, having the opportunity to play against the best players in the world. He has been practicing some time here and we are proud to have him here. He will have a good chance to become a successful tennis player.”
Djokovic is pleased to host a second ATP tournament at his academy this season and hopes for more events in the future. “It’s always special to play in Serbia. It is quite unusual to have two tournaments so close to each other. I played the Serbia Open less than a month ago. This second tournament came up as a surprise to all of us as a result Roland-Garros moving a week later. It’s nice to play at home being able to spend some time with the family.
We have had the ATP events, a WTA tournament as well as a Challenger and Futures. The success of a nation in tennis is related to the amount of tournaments that are played in this country. So we are working close with the Federation to stage more Tier I events for both men and women to set up a whole season of Future events.”
🎉 Special birthday surprise for Novak Djokovic when he arrived at the courts of the Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade 🎉
— TennisTourTalk (@TennisTourTalk) May 23, 2021
In other action, French veteran Jeremy Chardy eased past US-American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-2 in 69 minutes.
“I played a really good match, very solid. After a slow start, I found the key to get the win. I am happy with my performance,” Chardy said during his post-match on-court interview. The 34-year-old will next oppose the winner of the encounter between No. 5 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia and Lituanian Ricardas Berankis.
Djere, Krajinovic pull out
Earlier in the day, it was announced that Laslo Djere was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to illness.
“I regret not playing, I had a headache, sore throat, I got tested, I’m healthy, but I feel exhausted. I will start practicing as soon as I feel better. I hope to play next year,” the 25-year-old Serbian explained and also spoke about his performance at last week’s Geneva Open, where he reached the quarterfinals.
“I played really well, but I can’t say that I am satisfied with the result, however, considering that I had five defeats in a row, I can’t complain. The two wins help my self-confidence.”
Next stop for Djere will be Paris.
“Roland Garros is in the centre of attention, I just need to recover first. After that, I entered the Queen’s Club tournament followed by Wimbledon.”
Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic also withdrew from the Belgrade Open due to health reasons. The World No. 41 was scheduled to play Medjedovic.