11/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/27/2021 02:04
Serbia are one victory away from the quarter-finals after dispatching hosts Austria 3-0 to ensure their Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 campaign in Innsbruck began in fine style.
The knockout blow was supplied by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who made light work of Austria's Dennis Novak, prevailing 6-3 6-1 in the second singles match to fire his nation into an unassailable lead and to the summit of Group F.
Djokovic's triumph built on team-mate Dusan Lajovic's earlier success. Lajovic navigated a tight showdown with Gerald Melzer, while further gloss was added to the scoreline as debutant Nikola Cacic and Filip Krajinovic defeated Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald in the doubles.
There was a little bit of history for Djokovic also. He now has more Davis Cup singles wins than any other Serbian player - moving ahead of Janko Tipsarevic on the all-time list - after chalking up the 35th of his illustrious career.
The 34-year-old was in the Serbia team, as was captain Viktor Troicki, that topped the Davis Cup podium in 2010, and their latest triumph moved them a closer to a fifth quarter-final appearance since 2015. Victory over Germany tomorrow will guarantee Serbia a last-eight spot.
In his pre-tournament press conference, Djokovic revisited the despair and emotion that he and his team-mates felt following Serbia's defeat to Russia in the quarter-finals of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals in Madrid in 2019.
He also spoke of his desire to lead Serbia to a second Davis Cup title, and certainly entered this showdown with Novak, who he had never previously faced, with considerable gusto, taking the opening set 6-3.
The second set was even more commanding, with successive breaks of serve propelling the 20-time Grand Slam champion into a 4-0 lead, before Djokovic was at his clinical best, posting a convincing 6-2 win.
"I felt very good," said Djokovic, who revealed in his post-match press conference that he has been offered the opportunity to ski with Austrian Olympic champion Benjamin Raich. "I was locked in from the first point, determined to execute the game-plan.
"I have never faced Novak in an official match. I saw that he possesses an all-round game, while playing at home in Davis Cup - he has a pretty good Davis Cup record - he didn't have much to lose. He started that way and was quite aggressive.
"It took me some time to adapt. The crucial game was the eighth game of the first set, 4-3, new balls. I managed to put in a couple of extra returns, make him play and mix up the pace. After that, there was really no looking back. I just served well, moved great.
"All in all, it was a very good performance. I'm pleased that I managed to bring a win to my country. I'm always very inspired and motivated to be in the team and play for my country. If I can contribute in a positive way, on and off the court, I'll always make myself available.
"The captain and my team-mates know that and the federation knows that. It has nothing to do with anything other than just loving my country and playing for Serbia, for these colours."
In the opening singles match, Lajovic, who, like Djokovic, was a member of the Serbian team which contested the 2013 final against Czech Republic, defeated Melzer 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-5 to claim his first Davis Cup win since February 2019.
This was Melzer's maiden Davis Cup appearance since a tie against Belarus in St. Polten in 2018, and the latest step in the Vienna-born 31-year-old's wider comeback, having been sidelined for almost two years due to a torn ligament in his ankle.
Before being struck down by injury, Melzer had won his previous three matches in the competition and traded blows with Lajovic during the first set before succumbing in a tense tie-break.
Lajovic, who reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open earlier this year, recovered from 3-1 down in the tiebreak to lead 6-4, finishing proceedings moments later with a sublime cross-court backhand.
The match was far from over, however, and a timely break of serve midway through the second set, propelling Melzer into a 4-2 lead, was just reward for the left-hander's endeavours. He proceeded to win 6-3 and haul himself level in the match.
Lajovic, however, was not to be denied, reasserting himself with an early break of serve in the deciding set before eventually sealing victory.
"I'm happy that I brought that first point for Serbia," said Lajovic. "The match was not as I was expecting it to be. He had a really good quality of tennis. I didn't see him for a long time because he was injured, then coming back. I didn't know what to expect.
"It was very important to start off the day with 1-0. For us, it's important to start strong in the group, especially because this is our first match, then we're playing against Germany, who are playing their first match tomorrow. They will feel the pressure which we did today."
The outcome of the tie had already been determined by the time Cacic and Krajinovic took to the court. However, the showdown was no deadrubber with the result potentially having an outcome on group placings depending on happenings elsewhere.
Cacic and Krajinovic seized control of proceedings by taking the opening set, only to be pegged back by Marach and Oswald in the second, before duly cantering over the winning line with a 7-6 4-6 6-3.