Djokovic mounts Serbia’s fightback in Davis Cup final

Saturday, December 4, 2010

BELGRADE - National tennis idol Novak Djokovic struggled at the end but emerged with a win to leave 17,000 fans with weekend victory hopes intact as he pulled host Serbia level 1-1 with France to end opening day play at the Davis Cup final Friday.

World number 3-ranked Djokovic constructed a 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 defeat of Gilles Simon to counter-balance a knockout 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 victory for France’s Gael Monfils over Janko Tipsarevic to give the visitors the early lead.

Djokovic did it tough in the closing stages, with Simon saving a pair of match points to break the Serb for 5-all in the third set. Djokovic responded with a break-back and finally secured the win after two and a quarter hours on his fourth chance.

“It is one-all and I think it is a realistic result after the first day. We are confident we can still pull off the win,” Djokovic said after the match.

Nine-times champion France are looking for a first title in the worldwide team competition since defeating Australia in 2001 in Melbourne. First-time finalist Serbia have never lost in the Belgrade arena.

Djokovic highlighted that France already won titles, while for Serbia, which broke into the top tennis echelon over the past three years, “this is a chance of a lifetime, maybe a unique opportunity to win this trophy in front of the home crowd”.

Earlier, Tipsarevic struck 38 unforced errors in his losing effort to Monfils at the Belgrade arena.

“I did not lose because I was tense, but because Gael was a better player,” said the number 49 playing his first match since Basle on Nov 3. “It was, honestly, a disappointing performance.”

“(My poor start) gave Gael the mental edge, he saw that I was nervous. I was feeling the pressure (from the home crowd), but I was also the underdog and he was expected to win.”

Monfils admitted he had tense moments as well. “It may have seemed easy, but I had to break him in his mind, and then it was a bit easier,” said Monfils. “After the first set, the pressure was on Janko, because the crowd was not so much in it.

“I am pretty happy, it was a pretty good match, but not the biggest of my life.”

France are bidding for a 5-4 lead in the series, which includes ties plays when Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia.

Tipsarevic began the match with two double-faults, slamming the ball repeatedly into the net, spreading his arms and shaking his head in frustration.

Monfils took little notice, claiming an early lead as he won the first set in just 28 minutes in an unscripted result for the home crowd.

Nearly 17,000 fans in the arena made their presence known with their cheering, outnumbering several hundred French fans, some dressed in the national red-white-blue tricolour.

Monfils quickly took up his first-set advantage by winning the second in a tiebreaker and ran away with the third set as Tipsarevic could not pull his game together in the face of French pressure.

The French player moved out to a 5-0 lead and finished off the job with a smash for 6-0 in just over two hours.

Tipsarevic remains keen to do his part in any eventual Serbian victory. “I am still ready and fit to play the decisive singles match Sunday. Do I want to come back? Yes I do and I am ready.”

Asked at the end of the day whether it was the best solution to call up Tipsarevic for the opening single, Serbian team captain Bogdan Obradovic quipped: “The best solution is to have two Novaks, but that is impossible. Janko is a great Davis Cup player, Monfils was just better today.”

Djokovic beat Simon for a sixth straight time, his second this year after Beijing.

The Serb clinched the second set with an ace as the took a 2-0 lead on sets after just 70 minutes. Djokovic raced through for his straight-set win to conserve energy for any possible call up for the Saturday doubles.

“It is totally open,” Djokovic said when asked whether he expected to play doubles Saturday and insisted that he was physically fit enough for the challenge.

Filed under: Tennis

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