First-Time Winner Spotlight: Laslo Djere
Laslo Djere was just looking for match wins coming into the Rio Open presented by Claro, but walked away with his first ATP Tour title. The 23-year-old Serbian defeated #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime to win the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro.
Djere was competing in his first ATP Tour final after reaching three other semi-finals on clay. The milestone moment puts him at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 37.
The Serbian is also the fifth first-time champion on the ATP Tour in 2019, just eight weeks into the season.
First-Time Winners In 2019
|Alex de Minaur||19||Sydney|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||25||Cordoba|
||Rio de Janeiro|
Afterwards, Djere spoke to ATPTour.com:
How does it feel to win your first ATP Tour title?
I’m really happy about this title, especially winning in my first final at the 500-level. It's an exceptional day for me in my career and my life. I was a little bit nervous for the final because I knew I was facing a tough opponent. I started to move and it got easier, but it was still very tough mentally and physically.
You didn’t have a ton of match wins to start the season. How do you then find yourself with an ATP 500 title this week?
I’ve never started the season well. The past two years I was losing eight or nine matches in a row. I wasn’t so nervous until Rio because it was only mid-February, but I knew a win would mean a lot. I was a bit disappointed when I saw the draw and saw I was facing Dominic Thiem in the first round, but I believed I could win.
What did it mean to beat a former champion in Thiem and get your first Top 10 win? Was that a key to your week?
Sometimes a player beats a tough opponent and flies through the week, which is what happened to me. Moments like beating a Top 10 player are the reason I dedicated my whole life to this sport. It means a lot and I’m sure it gave me some experience.
As fellow Serbians on the ATP Tour, do you have a relationship with Novak Djokovic? Has he given you any advice or encouragement?
We know each other and always say a few words when we see each other at tournaments. He obviously plays the biggest tournaments and that wasn’t always the case in my career, so I haven’t had a chance to see him as much. He sent me a message when I reached the Top 100 [of the ATP Rankings] and called me to play doubles with him at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, when I was nowhere close to the Top 100. He’s a great guy and an inspiration to all of us.
Your parents played a big part in your comments yesterday and then today in the trophy ceremony. What would they think of this result?
They would be really happy. I learned at a young age that life isn’t fair, but it’s unfortunate that they can’t enjoy this success because they dedicated their lives to me and the sport. I hope they see this and that they’re really proud of me.
How will you celebrate tonight?
I didn’t make a plan for that yet. I’ll definitely celebrate with my coach since he’s here…maybe switch from the pasta, rice and chicken I’ve had for the past 10 days. I think maybe a glass of wine and then I’ll really celebrate when I get back to Serbia with my friends and family.
Huge congratulations to Laslo for his amazing win at @RioOpenOficial & his maiden @ATP_Tour trophy. You have demonstrated a great deal of resilience & fighting spirit in difficult times. Thank you for your honesty & transparency in sharing your emotions about your parents 🙏❤🇷🇸 https://t.co/8ozI498Lqs— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) February 25, 2019
What do you like to do when you’re away from the tennis court?
I like to read good books and sometimes go to the cinema. I like to spend time with my girlfriend and friends whenever I can. I like baking and enjoy making cakes and desserts if I have some free time. I make really good brownies, cinnamon buns and apple crisps, but I also like experimenting as well.
Who were some of your favorite players growing up?
I liked watching Andy Roddick because he has a big serve. I had a poster in my room of Gustavo Kuerten with the trophy when he won Roland Garros. And then I started looking up to Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic when they started coming up on tour as well.
You’ve written that you like the Chicago Bulls and Seattle Seahawks. How did you find those teams and do you still follow them?
I remember my dad was watching the NFL a few years ago and it was Seattle against New Orleans. I loved the way Seattle was fighting and I’ve followed them ever since. I enjoy watching the highlights when I can. I supported the Chicago Bulls because Dwyane Wade was on the team and now I support the Miami Heat because he’s with them. But I know this is his last season, so I don’t know what I’m going to do when he retires. [Smiles].