An air of deja vu. This must have been felt by Novak Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic on the center court in Vienna on Tuesday for their duel in the first round. As in Rome a few weeks ago, the world number 1 was more than jostled by his compatriot, 30th at ATP, especially during a fierce first set. And like in Rome, he ended up enforcing his rank with the same score, 7-6, 6-3, in 1h58 of play, barely ten minutes less … than on Roman clay . In the second round, the “Djoker” will try to tame the Croatian Borna Coric. Another victory would ensure him to finish the year at the top of the standings for the 6th time in his career.
He warned: Novak Djokovic was not delighted to have inherited Filip Krajinovic in the first round. First, because he found it unfortunate that two of the three Serbs in the painting clash at the start. Then, because he knew that his task would be difficult for having shared several training sessions with his compatriot and friend in Belgrade a few days before the tournament. And the facts proved him right on Tuesday, during a game that often gave the impression of a mirror game between two players with very similar styles.
Krajinovic let his chance pass (again)
So close, moreover, that Krajinovic thought he would turn in the lead. Roman clay or hard Viennese indoor, the tactical data is the same between the two Serbs. And the lower ranked of the two did more than resist: from 3-1 to 3-5, he lined up four games, completely neutralizing his opponent in the backhand diagonal. Jostled in cadence, Djokovic also began to miss on his best shot (13 unforced errors on the backhand), especially along the line. But what saved him, as often, was his mental strength.
Because every time he found himself in a favorable position, Krajinovic cracked him. First when he served for this very important first set at 5-4, he almost offered his commitment to his opponent, accumulating blunders. Then on a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break, his forehand stopped in the strip of the net. And he literally exploded on the next two points with gross fouls on a smash and again on the forehand attack. In a few seconds and so many bad choices, the 30th player in the world ruined more than an hour of effort.
Djokovic did not ask for so much. The winning of this inaugural round released him and he was logically detached in a second act that he could even have concluded more easily. The spectacular points did not fail to cheer up the thousand spectators present, like this cushioned half-volley played left hand by Krajinovic with success which aroused the admiration of his opponent. But in the end, it was the “Djoker” who could smile. If he manages to get rid of another of his “clones” on the circuit, Borna Coric, in eighth, he will join Sampras in the book of records, ahead of his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (world number 1 at the end of season 5 times).