(Banja Luka) Serbian Novak Djokovic, world No.1, hardly beat young Frenchman Luca Van Assche (87th), 6/7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2, Wednesday in the second round of the tournament Banja Luka ATP 250 (clay), Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Without complexes, the 18-year-old player, who fell from the Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the previous round, took the first set from the winner of 22 Grand Slam tournaments, after saving three set points.
In difficulty with his right elbow, Djokovic remained on an elimination from the round of 16 at the Masters 1000 of Monte-Carlo against the Italian Lorenzo Musetti (21st), 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
At Banja Luka he still sported a sleeve and didn’t seem embarrassed to let go of his shots, easily winning his first service games against Van Assche.
But the winner of the Roland-Garros junior tournament in 2021 and recent winner of the Challenger tournament in Sanremo, did better than resist his illustrious elder by snatching the first set in a tiebreaker (7/4). Earlier, however, he had had to dismiss three set points.
In the second set, the world No.1, who was often annoyed during the game, quickly recovered to equalize (6-3).
In the third set, it was the Frenchman who broke from the start. An advantage that “Nole”, pushed by the public, canceled in stride before in turn taking the service of his young opponent (3-1). The Serb raced in the lead until the end (6-2) to win in just over 2:30.
In the quarter-finals, he will be opposed to the winner of the match between his compatriot Dusan Lajovic (70th) and another Frenchman, Grégoire Barrère (57th).
The ATP 250 tournament in Banja Luka, capital of the Bosnian Serb entity, replaces the one traditionally held in Belgrade, relocated this season due to modernization works.