Good friend and hot rival Andy Murray is blazing a trail for the next generation of tennis which Serb Novak Djokovic is determined to follow.
A day after fellow teenager Murray clinched his second straight title at San Jose, beating giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), Djokovic got off to a shaky start to reach the second round of the Rotterdam Open on Monday.
The 19-year-old fifth seed managed to struggle past Frenchman Florent Serra 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
But there was another rude awakening for slumping Serb Janko Tipsarevic, beaten by on-form Belgian Olivier Rochus 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The loss was the fifth in a first round this sad season for the 91st-ranked Tipsarevic, who also lost a round-robin match as he retired against Lleyton Hewitt at the start of the year in Adelaide.
He proceeded to go down to defeat in Auckland, Melbourne, Zagreb and last week in Marseille.
World No. 34 Rochus edged ahead 3-2 in their career series, as the battling Belgian recovered after losing the first set at the Ahoy arena.
Djokovic, winner of the Adelaide title last month to start the 2007 season, was playing in only his second indoor match of the campaign after losing in last week's Marseille first round.
The young gun says that he and Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils are now chasing pacesetter Murray, the 13th-ranked Scot.
"We're all expected to reach the Top 10 sooner or later," said the Serb, who had to fight through a tiebreaker against Serra before securing the second set and the match.
"The results will come, but I'm not worrying about mine. There is always pressure on us, we all feel it. But that's normal and good to have. I'm satisfied with how I've dealt with it so far in my career," he said.
Djokovic has a special burden to bear, with the British press occasionally mentioning how much he might want to change nationality. The reports have consistently been denied by the Serb.
Djokovic will play in the second round against Romanian veteran Andrei Pavel, who crushed Italy's Daniele Bracciali 6-1, 6-1.
Djokovic said his opening match was a challenge.
"I was the favorite and was expected to win, he was a qualifier. But I've not had much indoor experience so far this season. I had to focus and fight through the match. That's a positive, but it was very close. Things can only get easier," he said.
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