“Thanks Luca for letting an old man win,” quips Novak Djokovic.

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The ATP 250 event in Banja Luka marked Novak Djokovic‘s first victorious start since his early exit from the Monte Carlo Masters. In the second round, the world number one played Luca Van Assche, the youngest player in the top 100, and won 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 38 minutes.

After struggling for almost ten days with a right elbow ailment, Novak was unable to overcome the opposition in the first set, squandering set points and behind. However, the Serb improved from set two on to defeat the Frenchman and go to the quarterfinal.

Following the game, Novak was amused and thanked Luca for allowing a “old man” to win. Djokovic produced six breaks, mostly in sets two and three, and suffered two breaks. In the first eight games of the match, they were evenly matched with no chances for the returning players.

In Banja Luka, Novak Djokovic defeated Luca Van Assche after three sets.

In game eight, the Frenchman held at 15 and smashed a backhand down the line winner at 4-4 to set up break opportunities. Following Novak’s forehand miscue, Luca won the opening point and served for the match at 5-4.

After forcing the opponent’s error to extend the set and his chances, Djokovic maintained his composure and broke back at the very last second. At 5-6 in the set, Van Assche served to stay in it and was put to the test. With courageous hitting, a teen saved three set points and instituted a tie break.

After 73 minutes, Luca won the set with a service winner at 6-4 after Novak fell behind 3-1 and played a few careless shots. In the second set, Djokovic got off to a fast start, connecting on 17 of his 18 first serves and applying constant pressure to the opposition.

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After the opponent’s errant forehand in game three, the world number one took the lead with a break and secured a 4-2 victory by holding at 15 with a forehand crosscourt winner in game six. In order to create a 5-3 lead in the eighth game, the Serb forced the opponent’s error. He then won three set points on the return in the following game.

After Luca’s errant volley, Novak won the second to win the set 6-3 and force a decider. They exchanged breaks to start the deciding set, and Djokovic gained another break with a forced error in game four to go up 3-1.

Van Assche served to stay in the match in game eight after cutting the deficit to 4-2 in game 6. Luca’s backhand landed long, giving Novak another break as he closed out the set 6-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals. Although I didn’t play at my best, I must commend Luca for his valiant effort.

I hope he has a successful rest of his career. He still has a lot of time because he is so young. For allowing ‘the old man’ like myself to win the match, I want to thank him, Novak Djokovic remarked.

“Thanks Luca for letting an old man win,” quips Novak Djokovic.

By Antonio Zaccaro

Hello, I'm Antonio Zaccaro, tennis lover since I was 13. I started this blog out of pure passion, and now it has become my job. I constantly follow all the tournaments and I am always updated on all the news. What I know, I share with all my readers. My considerations are the result of hours and hours spent in front of screens and on tennis courts.