Davis Cup

12/03/2021 | News release | Archived content

Mektic and Pavic send Croatia through to the final

Earlier, Djokovic had levelled the tie with a 64, 62 win against Marin Cilic, following yet another upset win for Borna Gojo, this time 46, 63, 62 against Dusan Lajovic.

Two days ago, Djokovic said that Davis Cup sits alongside the majors as one of the biggest priorities in his career, and he did everything he could to hurl his side over the line and into the final. But it wasn't enough. This was the first Davis Cup tie since 2013 to pit the singles No.1 against the doubles No.1, and it was the doubles specialists who triumphed this time. Mektic and Pavic remain undefeated this week and they have not even dropped a set, a record that will stand Croatia in good stead if the final against Germany or the Russian Tennis Federation goes down to the wire.

"He [Djokovic] was showing that he was number one in the world in singles", said Mektic. "But luckily we didn't play that sport, we played the sport with four people. We're so happy."

Pavic added: "It was a great win. We played a tough team. Obviously Novak is the best player in the world, we managed to do it. From the group stages to the quarters, to the semis, Borna and Marin played great matches, and unbelievable doubles. We're super happy to be in the final and we're ready now for the final."

The day began with Gojo tipping the balance of the tie in Croatia's favour by coming from behind to defeat Lajovic. Gojo, the world No.279, has been the surprise package of this year's Davis Cup Finals. Even for a competition known to inspire special performances from lower-ranked players, Gojo's week has been astonishing. He has played well above his average level to record consecutive career-best victories, firstly against world No.61 Alexei Popyrin in the Group Stage and then against world No.27 Lorenzo Sonego in Croatia's quarter-final win over Italy, and now we can add world No.33 Lajovic to his list of victims.

Serbian captain Viktor Troicki has kept people guessing with his team selections throughout the week, fielding Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic and Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening singles match of Serbia's three ties en route to the semi-finals, but he put his faith back in Lajovic on Friday.

With Gojo serving at 4-2 40-0 in the first set, he seemed to be in total control. But a few loose errors let Lajovic back into the game and the Serbian pounced, threading a forehand pass up the line to break back. While Lajovic jumped for joy, releasing the tension that had shackled him, Gojo's game suddenly deserted him as he lost 11 points in a row, eight of them with unforced errors. As Lajovic mixed up his return of serve positioning to great effect, he soon had the opening set.

The second set began by following a similar pattern. Gojo managed to regain some momentum, first by holding and then by breaking Lajovic to love, although in truth he was handed the break, and Lajovic knew it, slamming his racket to the ground in frustration. Lajovic did well to avoid going a double break down, and maintaining a foothold in the set set him up to recover the break in the next game as he returned to striking his groundstrokes with zip and intent while Gojo's unforced errors stacked up. But the set took another turn in Gojo's favour as he came through a tough game to break again for 4-2. Having re-established the lead, this time he held onto it, closing out the set confidently as Lajovic's level plummeted.

Gojo made a really fast start to the decider, setting up break point with a dipping forehand pass and then firing a stunning backhand down the line to move ahead. The lesson from the first two sets had been that leads were precarious and unlikely to last, so Gojo pushed hard for the security of a double break. After a back and forth game, Gojo clinched it, moving 3-0 ahead when Lajovic pushed a simple backhand wide. After that, there was no stopping Gojo and the invisible force carrying him into uncharted territory.

After celebrating with his team, and having a moment to take it all in, he reflected on his win and what it all meant.

"In the first set I was up 4-2 40-0, I was in control, I slipped in that game there. I got down on myself a little bit, but then the captain and the teams and the fans picked me back up. Obviously Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is bigger on everyone and I managed to play some of my best tennis here at this tournament. I'm very happy that I managed to get those big wins, ranking wise, but for me it's more important that I managed to get the point for the team."

The Davis Cup might be the premium team competition in men's tennis, but having the premium individual can help too, and now it was Djokovic's time to step up for Serbia.

Djokovic took to court with a dominant 17-2 win-loss record against Cilic, but the early stages were closely contested, with both players having to save break points. With the match locked at 4-4, and both players striking the ball sweetly from the baseline, a double fault from Cilic handed Djokovic the opportunity to serve for the first set. A determined Cilic fought hard for the immediate break back, creating four opportunities in all, but Djokovic stood tall to close it out.

It was a familiar scenario: Cilic had pushed Djokovic hard throughout the opener, but the world No.1 was stronger when it mattered most as Cilic couldn't capitalise on any of his six break points.

To give a measure of the uphill battle facing Cilic from this point, Djokovic has won more than 95% of the matches in his career after winning the first set, and he quickly went about extending his advantage. He began to open his shoulders, swing freely, deploy his variety and generally assert his authority. Already leading 3-1, he put the result beyond any reasonable doubt with the most extraordinary game to secure the double break, highlighted by an exquisite drop shot-lob combination and a trademark backhand down the line winner.

It wasn't long before Djokovic clinched victory, sealing his 19th consecutive Davis Cup singles victory and keeping his country alive in the semi-final.

Afterwards, Djokovic said: "It was always gonna be a tough match against Marin. I know him very well. The first set was over an hour, close games. Just a very nervy start from both of us, we both knew the significance of this match. Obviously winning the first set gave me a lot of confidence for the second. Now we've got a chance to play doubles. Croatia has the best doubles team in the world. We'll do our best, may the best team win."

Ahead of the doubles, Serbia captain Viktor Troicki switched up his nomination, replacing Nikola Cacic with Filip Krajinovic, despite the fact that Cacic had partnered Djokovic twice already this tournament, including in a decisive victory against Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

Explaining his decision, Troicki said: "We knew that match was the toughest for sure. The idea is to have good returners, singles players, coming out aggressive with the return because sometimes it makes it tough for the doubles guys when they get a lot of returns back."

Djokovic dug Serbia out of a hole in the second game, saving three break points with strong serving. At 4-3, a stunning backhand return from Pavic set up break point, only for Krajinovic's serving to rescue the Serbs this time. Djokovic was pumped, urging more noise from his teammates on the bench.

While it had been a tight first set, the Croatians, impenetrable on serve, were the ones creating chances on return, and the pressure eventually told. At 6-5, they worked their way to a sixth break point, and this time they capitalised. Djokovic and Krajinovic did their best to defend the net, but Mektic and Pavic eventually found a way through.

Djokovic and Krajinovic had done well to hang with the Croatians in the first set, but keeping pace in the second set proved much harder. Mektic and Pavic went up a break as a forehand volley from Djokovic drifted long, and Serbia's hopes drifted away too. Djokovic kicked his bag in frustration and by now the quality gap was obvious, with Mektic and Pavic's experience proving crucial.

When it was all over, Djokovic congratulated every member of the Croatian team, whose celebrations were only just beginning.