Djokovic stays cool to level with France in Davis Cup

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.