Big-name wins are accumulating for Dusan Lajovic in an impressive 2023 season.
After victories over Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev to win the Banja Luka title in April, the Serbian claimed another top-10 win against Jannik Sinner on Cincinnati's hard courts.
Lajovic's first-round victory at the 2023 Rolex Shanghai Masters was over another big-name opponent, with three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka eliminated in straight sets, 6-4 7-6(7). It marked Lajovic's first win over Wawrinka in three matches, and progress to Shanghai's second round for the first time in three main-draw attempts.
"I've tried changing several things in my life (and) in my game and it's started paying off on the court. I was able to find a way to enjoy (being) on the court, whether I'm winning or losing," Lajovic said of the impressive form he's struck this year.
"Maybe in the past I would not believe that every time you step on the court that it's enough what I do on the court. But now I just relax and believe that when I'm able to produce my best, its enough to at least compete with these guys."
It underlines the benefit of experience for the 33-year-old, along with the perspective of his self-described late start on tour.
"I had times where, as a young person, you believe that everything needs to happen right away," he noted. "In tennis everything is about process and you've got to be patient, you've got to work, you've got to stay disciplined but also got to love what you do.
"I mean, if I'm here and losing and winning but not being happy about it, it's for nothing.
"I'm really enjoying right now being on court, enjoying competing and every week I go to the tournament happy about the challenges."
The sport itself was something that came relatively late to the Belgrade-born Lajovic, who took up tennis at age seven because it was the most accessible sport at the time.
"I wanted to play football like all the kids in Serbia at the time but it was not available (to me) so I went to tennis," Lajovic, who first visited a club because it featured a pizzeria, said.
"I went for a pizza with my parents and there were tennis lessons, so I gave it a go and since then I've not stopped.
"I think it's rare, today in the 21st century to do what you love and what you wanted to as a kid as your profession, so you've got to respect that."
There has been no shortage of inspiration for Lajovic, with world No.1 countryman Djokovic setting a strong example for younger Serbian players.
"Basically you don't even need to talk, you just need to stay close to him and you will figure things, the way he does things, how professional they are," he explained of the 24-time Grand Slam champion's influence.
"Through the years I think that he helped a lot, all the guys from Serbia. He's always willing to talk, he's always willing to give advice and it's great to have somebody like that from such a small country."
With many images of Djokovic, a four-time Rolex Shanghai Masters champion, throughout the Qi Zhong Stadium, there are many reminders for Lajovic of the possibilities at this event.
Having first contested qualifying in Shanghai seven years ago, Lajovic is delighted to continue his progress at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. He notes it's a welcome stop as the season draws to a close.
"We've travelled a lot, but you know, being here you don't feel that," he said. "You feel refreshed because the city is the great, the people who organise the tournament are great and I think the players are really enjoying it."