Djokovic stays cool to level with France in Davis Cup
BELGRADE: Ice-cool Novak Djokovic calmed Serbia nerves yesterday to level the Davis Cup final at 1-1 after team mate Janko Tipsarevic was thrashed by France’s Gael Monfils in the Belgrade Arena.
Djokovic, whose country’s hopes of winning the trophy for a first time rest heavily on his shoulders, outplayed Gilles Simon for a 6-3 6-1 7-5 victory played out to a soundtrack of beating drums and inflatable plastic batons.
Today’s doubles between Serbians Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki and the French pairing of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra now takes on enormous significance for the outcome of the 98th edition of the team event.
After several days of hype there was an expectant atmosphere in the 17,000-seater arena as folk dancers provided the pre-match entertainment and choirs of children sung the national anthems but it threatened to go flat as Tipsarevic imploded.
The bearded world number 49 could hardly have started in worse fashion. He opened with two feeble double faults and never found any form during a 6-1 7-6 6-0 drubbing that left him fearing the axe by captain Bogdan Obradovic for Sunday’s reverse singles.
“That never happened to me in my life. Honestly I don’t know whether I should play (on Sunday) and what to expect, it’s up to the captain,” he said.
Wild horses will not keep Djokovic away, however, as the world number three who owns a cafe bar across the street from the stadium produced a masterclass against Simon who was chosen for the second singles slot ahead of Llodra.
Djokovic broke serve after a marathon seventh game, whipping up the crowd with a huge fist-pump after his French opponent netted a failed pass.
Simon never really posed a threat after that despite strong vocal backing from a 1,000strong clump of flag-waving French fans all dressed in blue. Djokovic broke to love to take the first set before coasting through the second.
The Serb conducted the cheers from the crowd during the third set but the celebrations looked a little premature when he suffered a rare lapse, squandering two match points at 5-4 to allow Simon to extend the contest.
Djokovic, 23, hit back immediately and sealed his team’s the win in two hours 18 minutes to inflict France’s first reverse in a ‘live’ rubber in this year’s competition.
While the crowd were enthusiastic there were none of the unsavoury incidents that occasionally wreak havoc at major sporting events in the land-locked Balkan nation, particularly at soccer grounds.
Only when Tipsarevic lost his cool over a line call at the start of the second set tiebreak against Monfils did the generally vibrant atmosphere become more raucous, although it did not deter the Frenchman.
“The Serbian crowd is like a normal crowd,” said Monfils. “I think it’s more like the French press trying to build something up like crazy. I think the Serbians are very fair.”