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Djokovic Reclaims Hometown Title

Belgrade, Serbia

Novak Djokovic© Stevanovic/MilosavljevicNovak Djokovic celebrates winning his fifth tour-level title of the season.

ATP World Tour No. 2 Novak Djokovic improved to a 27-0 start on the season as he defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-6(4), 6-2 Sunday to reclaim his hometown title at the Serbia Open 2011 in Belgrade.

Djokovic’s 27-0 mark in 2011 is the best start to a season since Ivan Lendl won 29 straight matches in 1986. The Serbian has in fact won his past 29 matches, with his last defeat coming against Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November. He closed the 2010 season by leading Serbia to victory in the Davis Cup final against France.

The 23-year-old Djokovic claimed his fifth tour-level title of the season and the 23rd of his career. In the first four months of the season he won the Australian Open (d. Murray), Dubai (d. Federer) and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells and Miami, defeating Rafael Nadal both times.

Djokovic is already the frontrunner to qualify for the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and, as winner of the ATP World Tour 250 clay-court tennis tournament in Belgrade, he received another 250 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking points. He also won his hometown title in its inaugural edition in 2009, with victory over Lukasz Kubot.

While Djokovic was delighted with his results thus far in 2011, the Serbian declared there is still much he would like to achieve this season, namely usurping Nadal at the top of the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings.

"I’m definitely happy to win another title and to move on. Now in front of me there is a period of two months, which are really important," said Djokovic. "I need to stay healthy and I need to stay fit in order to play well. The [winning] streak is something I don’t really think about. I am flattered that people compare me to the greats, like Lendl, [John] McEnroe, Federer, Nadal - guys who have made history on the tennis court. But I have some other goals to achieve this year.

"Obviously the No. 1 ranking is still far away, even though I’ve been winning every match I’ve played this year and won five titles in a row. But I know I need to do more and if I ever get to that No. 1 in the world it would be a dream come true for me because it’s been the ambition of my tennis career. But there is Nadal who is playing really well, Federer who wants to come back definitely, many players to beat in order to get there."

The top-seeded Djokovic was given one of his sternest tests of the week in the opening set against Lopez, saving six break points before edging the Spanish left-hander in a tie-break. He then pulled away in the second set, breaking serve twice to seal victory in just under two hours.

"Today I was playing for the title in front of so many people. It’s always a huge motivation for me, but also a huge responsibility with the kind of expectations that I feel," explained Djokovic. "I was aware of that and that’s why I was maybe a little bit more nervous. I was focussed and in the important moments today I played well, I was patient and the luck was on my side a little bit as well."

World No. 37 Lopez hit form on his debut in Belgrade this week, upsetting two seeded players in No. 8 Juan Monaco and No. 4 Albert Montanes as well as former World No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez to reach his seventh ATP World Tour final. He dropped to a 2-5 mark.

The 29-year-old Madrid native came into Belgrade on the back of a quarter-final showing in Barcelona (l. to Dodig), but in his preceding nine tour-level tournaments he had won back-to-back matches just once.

"I feel good. I’m in good shape. I’ve played so many matches in the past two weeks, so it’s good for my confidence," said Lopez. "I have three more tournaments on clay, so I hope to keep going in this level that I played at here."

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