It was a scintillating start to the Davis Cup semifinals.
World no. 1 Novak Djokovic (Player Profile) took to the court earlier today, this time for his home country of Serbia as they prepared to challenge semifinal newcomers Canada for a spot in the World Group Final in November. Although Djokovic had a disappointing finish to his US Open Series, he was undoubtedly in top form on Friday afternoon.
The ATP tour’s top competitor played the opening rubber against 22-year-old Canadian rising star Vasek Pospisil (Player Profile), who had a marvellous run to the semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in August. The Serbian star was in top form and brushed aside the Canadian no. 2 with his overwhelming shot-making for a one-sided 6-2,6-0,6-4 to give Serbia a 1-0 lead in the tie. Djokovic hit 33 winners and a remarkable 12/14 net points and conceded only 6 games in his lopsided victory – a foreshadowing of things to come from the Serbian no. 1.
“I did really well considering I had one and a half practices since getting here.” Novak said after the match. “I’m lacking freshness so I tried to be extra committed from the start. It’s possible (I’ll play doubles). I hope Janko feels a bit less pressure in his singles. We hope to be 2-0 up after the first day, that would be ideal.”
The second rubber between Janko Tipsarevic (Player Profile) and Milos Raonic (Player Profile) was a much tighter affair. Tipsarevic, who has had an uninspiring ATP season this year, was able to break the Canadian no. 1 and take the first set 7-5. It was a fantastic start for the no. 23, who had lost to Milos in all three of their previous encounters at tour level as he was able to hit 22 winners to edge out the set. The world no. 11 quickly regrouped in the second set and hit 82% of his first serves as well as a scorching 5 aces and 16 winners to take the set 6-3. This only forced the Serbian raise his playing level and he retaliated with a 6-3 set of his own to lead 2-1 heading into the fourth set. Raonic has also appeared to have rolled his right ankle during the set and had requested a medical timeout to treat the injury.
The Canadian no. 1 took the initiative in the fourth set as he broke Tipsarevic in a stunning display of determination to force a fifth set in the second rubber. The two competitors continued the struggle in a tense fifth set: Tipsarevic played the role of the aggressor and constantly attempted to break the Canadian’s serve but Raonic’s resilience proved to be his saving grace as he would continue to save break points to bring the score to 6-6 in the final set. With no tiebreak to decide between them, the two top players continued to duel on the clay court in the Belgrade Arena until Milos final unleashed a gruelling forehand winner on break point. The Canadian eventually served out the match at 10-8 in the final set to level the tie at 1-1 after the first day of action.
“It’s great to come back from 2-1 down.” Raonic commented after his win. “It’s important to get through these type of things. I was serving really well and that kept me alive. It’s down to business tomorrow and hopefully I’m fighting hard on Sunday.”
Tomorrow’s third rubber will feature Serbia’s Illja Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic against former doubles no. 1 Daniel Nestor and partner Vasek Pospisil. Nestor and Pospisil played a dramatic Davis Cup quarterfinal this year, where they recorded a sensational 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 15-13 win over Italy, which allowed Raonic to clinch the deciding rubber. The 41 year-old Nestor has claimed 81 doubles titles and 8 Grand Slam titles in his professional career.
The winner of the seminfinals will draw either Czech Republic or Argentina in the Davis Cup Finals on November 15-17. No matter the results, this will mark Canada’s best overall Davis Cup performance since their 1913 Finals loss to USA. Prior to 2013, the team had never advanced past the second round of the prestigious tournament.
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