Top-seeded Novak Djokovic admitted Roman Safiullin was not an easy opponent in 104th place and credited the Russian for fighting to the last point during his semi-final match at the Tel Aviv Open. On Saturday, Djokovic defeated Safiullin 6-1, 7-6 (3) to advance to the final of the inaugural Tel Aviv Open.
“I think it was a very competitive match, especially in the second set,” Djokovic said after his win. “I have to say that he was pretty excited on the court in the second set today, there was a lot of tension and that was also due to his aggressive tennis style.
Great serves and when he has time he’s very solid from the right corner and the back. I knew I had to stay very strong and that he would raise his level in the second set, which he did. I served for the game and played off a few weak points, but credit goes to him for fighting.
It was definitely a nice afternoon out on the track.” Djokovic got off to a perfect start to the game, getting consecutive breaks and winning the first five games of the game. In game six, Safiullin took the game out of him and eventually went ahead from behind to reduce to 5:1.
Not much changed, however, as Djokovic routinely served to win the opener in game seven. After losing the first set, Safiullin had her first break points of the match in the sixth game of the second set, but did not convert them.
Then, in the ninth game, Djokovic got the first break of the set to open a 5-4 lead and give himself a chance to serve for the match.
Djokovic credited his parents
Novak Djokovic is known for his exceptional mental toughness which has helped establish him as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
“I think it has a lot to do with the environment I grew up in. As I mentioned before, I grew up in Serbia in the 90’s, living with wars, sanctions and difficult times. My parents suffered a lot just to be able to eat.
I was lucky enough to belong to this sport, which is not cheap. I fell in love with tennis and my parents helped me even though it was extremely difficult for them,” Djokovic was quoted as saying by Punto de Break. “It comes from appreciating life and those kinds of circumstances and knowing what it feels like to have nothing and then have so much in life.
This gives you the perspective to respect everything that comes with a more positive and humble attitude. It doesn’t always help me, but it catches on when I use it,” he added.