Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs (3) Aslan Karatsev
Date: 24 April 2021
Tournament: Serbia Open 2021
Venue: Belgrade, Serbia
Category: ATP 250
Surface: Red Clay
Prize money: US$235,238
Match timing: 5 pm local time, 8.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev preview
After a shock defeat to Dan Evans in his comeback tournament at Monte Carlo, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has produced two clinical performances at the Serbia Open so far. He has beaten Kwon Soon-woo and Miomir Kecmanovic by identical scorelines of 6-1, 6-3 in the first two rounds, to reach the semifinals with minimal fuss.
Djokovic had a 10-0 win-loss record in 2021 before his loss against Evans. That included two wins at the ATP Cup and a triumphant run at the Australian Open (for an unprecedented ninth time).
While he has looked solid in Belgrade so far, the Serb is still not back to his flawless best. He lost his serve against both Soon-woo and Kecmanovic, and will likely be tested even more by Aslan Karatsev.
Karatsev, who had won just one ATP singles match before the start of 2021, has been on a fairytale ride over the past couple of months. An extraordinary run at the Australian Open saw him reach the semifinals as a qualifier. Then in March, he claimed his first ATP title at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
With another run here in Belgrade, Karatsev has shown that he's here to stay. His result at the Australian Open was certainly not a fluke, and he has steadily built on it since then.
The 27-year-old did have a difficult time against Aljaz Bedene in the first round, where he outlasted his opponent 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5). But he found his own against Gianluca Mager on Friday, coasting to a routine 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev head-to-head
The first and only meeting between Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev came in the semifinals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Djokovic won that match 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and thus he leads their head-to-head 1-0.
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Karatsev prediction
While Novak Djokovic has produced quick wins in the tournament so far, it has to be said that he hasn't been tested much. Moreover, his usually reliable serve has not been as solid as usual, with an average first-serve percentage of 65 this week.
Aslan Karatsev's big groundstrokes will be his biggest assets against Djokovic. The Serb has struggled against power hitters at times in his career, and if he's not feeling his best, Karatsev might get a window of opportunity on Saturday.
That said, Djokovic would be fully motivated to keep his winning run going at his hometown event. As impressive as Karatsev has been lately, he might find it a little too tough to beat the World No. 1 in his own den.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in three sets.