The ATP Tour returns to Belgrade for the first time since 2012 for the Serbia Open, with home favourite and world number one Novak Djokovic the headline act.
The tournament is an ATP 250 clay-court event and 18-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic will have extra motivation to lift the silverware on home soil.
There is a strong Serbian challenge, however, with Djokovic joined by classy compatriots Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Miomir Kecmanovic and Laslo Djere.
Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini are the only two players ranked inside the world’s top 28 to be competing in Belgrade this week, although improving Russian Aslan Karatsev has come a long way in a short time and may soon be knocking on the door of the game’s elite.
Djokovic Worth Opposing at Short Odds
Djokovic won this event twice from just three appearances before it was banished nine years ago and the super Serb is
8/15 to be crowned champion again.
The world number one has a significant class edge on his rivals but if there is a time to take him on, then surely it is in a tournament that is played on clay.
Djokovic has claimed only one of his 18 Grand Slam titles at the French Open, which highlights his hard and grass-court dominance, and just two of his last 16 tournament wins have come on this slower surface.
The Serb lost in straight sets to British number one Dan Evans 6-4 7-5 in the third round in Monte Carlo last week, too, and although he is still the man to beat, his price is on the skinny side.
Berrettini Should Enjoy Easier Test
World number 10 Matteo Berrettini is a former Grand Slam semi-finalist and with two of his three career titles coming on the clay, the Italian must be near the top of every punters’ shortlist.
Berrettini is housed away from Djokovic in the bottom half of the draw and, in truth, there should be few concerns for the 25-year-old before a potential quarter-final with Filip Krajinovic.
Dusan Lajovic, 21 places inferior to Berrettini in the rankings, is the second-highest ranked player in the bottom half of the draw and can’t meet the Italian until the semi-finals.
The Rome native should relish this drop in grade and he is expected to have come on plenty for his spin at last week’s Monte Carlo Masters, where he bumped into promising Spanish youngster Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the opening round.
9/1, he is a strong each-way candidate in a competition severely lacking depth.
Djere May Give Superior Compatriot Some Concern
Surprise Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev is a fascinating contender in the top half of the draw but all his recent progress has come on a hard court, so perhaps Laslo Djere will be Djokovic’s biggest obstacle.
Djere has claimed both of his ATP Tour titles on clay and he showed his game was in excellent nick when falling at the final hurdle of his Sardinia title defence just over a week ago.
The 25-year-old was beaten in a deciding set in the final by Italian Lorenzo Sonego, having previously dumped out John Millman and Nikoloz Basilashvili, but it was further evidence that he goes well at this time of year.
That is amongst the best recent clay-court form on offer in this tournament and at odds of
14/1, Djere is worthy of each-way consideration.
*All odds correct at time of writing