ZADAR, Croatia (Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic romped into the final of his own exhibition tournament after winning both opening singles at the Adria Tour in Croatia’s coastal resort Zadar on Saturday.
Djokovic saved three set points in his 4-3 4-1 defeat of fellow Serb Pedja Krstin before he sank home crowd favourite Borna Coric 4-1 4-3 in front of several thousand fans at the Visnjik tennis complex.
“I hope we gave the crowd a good show,” Djokovic, who organised the event while international tennis remains suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said in a courtside interview.
“A few points here and there swung the tie my way. Many thanks to the fans who turned up and stayed late. The last few months have been difficult (because of the pandemic) and I hope you will come in numbers tomorrow too.”
The two-day event on red clay in Zadar is the second leg of Djokovic’s Adria Tour, with Austrian Dominic Thiem winning the first leg in Belgrade last weekend.
The third leg due in Montenegro on June 27 and 28 has been scrapped over coronavirus concerns while the final leg is to be staged in Bosnia’s city Banja Luka on July 3 and 4.
The tournaments involve eight players each, divided into two pools of four on a round-robin basis. Sets have been slashed to best-of-seven games.
In Sunday’s afternoon session, Djokovic faces Croatian Dino Serdarusic who replaced Grigor Dimitrov after the Bulgarian pulled out of the tournament with sickness following his opening 4-1 4-1 loss to Coric.
But the outcome of the contest will be meaningless as Djokovic cannot be overhauled by any of his Group A rivals.
In Group B, Russian Andrey Rublev is in pole position to advance into Sunday’s 1800 GMT final after wins over 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and Serb Danilo Petrovic.
In Sunday’s final round-robin match, Rublev faces Germany’s world number seven Alexander Zverev who stayed in contention for a berth in the final with a 4-3 0-4 4-3 win over Cilic.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)