Novak Djokovic suffered a humiliating home loss on Saturday which could throw the shaky Serb into crisis as the Roland Garros countdown clock ticks on.
The world No. 1 and lead attraction at his family’s home-grown ATP 250 event in Belgrade let the side down as he crumbled 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 against Aslan Karatsev, the No. 28 who reached the Australian Open final four from a qualifying start in February.
Victory was sweet for the Russian, who exited in his career-best performance two months ago to Djokovic in the Australian Open semis.
Djokovic will now start to sweat after back-to-back disappointments, which began with last week’s third-round embarrassment in Monte Carlo against British journeyman Dan Evans.
“Nobody likes to lose at home, this is a painful and profound defeat” he said..
“I don’t feel good right now, but I must congratulate him because he played amazing when he needed to.
“I fought hard and the public did not stop encouraging me. For them, I came back in the second set, but in the third, he was better than me. I had my options, but it was not possible.”
The latest loss was a marathon – longest of the season so far – with the conclusion coming after the three-and-a-half-hour mark.
Karatsev played total defence, salvaging an astounding 23 of 28 break points.
The underdog winner ended an 11-match win streak in Serbia for Djokovic, who admittedly last competed in his Balkan home nation in 2011 in a Davis Cup tie.
Djokovic was comprehensively denied a chance at a possible 83rd career title.
i”I’s disappointing to end the week like this, but I lost to a player who was better than me,” the Serb said. “I ‘m angry with myself, not with my rival.
“The tournament has had a successful week. Roland Garros is my goal and I need to do my best.”
The Djokovic temper flared in the opening set when the homeboy complained about too much clay near the centre, whose “altitude” was putting him off his game.
Main photo:- Aslan Karatsev knocks out Novak Djokovic in Belgrade – ©ATPTour.com