ITFWorld Autumn 2013

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DAVIS CUP BY BNP PARIBAS Novak Djokovic acknowledges his phenomenal home support EQUAL AND OPPOSITE Seldom could you find a more contrasting pair of Davis Cup semifinals. One was decided in minimal time, with the victors losing just one set in the three live matches, while the other went to a live and nervous fifth rubber. Chris Bowers looks back on the semifinals weekend, and forward to the 101st Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final. T here's much that's similar between the Czech Republic and Serbia. Just eight years ago it was newsworthy when two central and eastern European nations reached the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final — Croatia and Slovakia. These days it's far more common to see a former communist bloc nation lifting the trophy, such as the Serbs in 2010 and the Czechs in 2012. So it comes as no surprise to see these two modern-day team tennis powers lining up for the 2013 final in Belgrade in November. Yet the routes the two nations took to reach November's showdown in Belgrade were highly contrasting. The Czechs were merciless against an Argentinean team missing the world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro and the talismanic — and since retired — David Nalbandian. By complete contrast, Novak Djokovic's Serbia reached the final in the fifth match of the weekend, Janko Tipsarevic seeing off a spirited challenge from the first-time semifinalist, Canada. The semifinal in Belgrade Arena was always going to test Serbia's ability to adjust to the loss of the suspended Viktor Troicki. In 2010 and 2011, Djokovic came to Belgrade for a Davis Cup semifinal after playing in a Monday night final at the US Open — on both those occasions he asked to be exempted from the opening day's singles, a luxury Serbia could afford with two top 50 back-up players. No such luxury this time. With Troicki 16 ITFWORLD AUTUMN 2013 unavailable, Djokovic was needed on the Friday, and went into his match against Vasek Pospisil less than 48 hours after getting off the plane from New York — and on a clay court after several weeks on North American concrete. Djokovic impressed with his two singles. "I think I even surprised myself to be honest," he said after his 76 62 62 win over Milos Raonic on the final day had tied the contest at 2-2 and left Djokovic having not dropped a set in the six he had played. "I came in very late, but I adjusted well, and I'm very glad I brought Serbia two points. But it's not enough — we need another point." And that was Serbia's point! Even with Djokovic, it still needed a third win from somewhere. When Tipsarevic had match point in the fifth set against Raonic on Friday night, the tie could have been killed off on the first day. But Raonic showed the same dedication to his country's cause that Djokovic has shown over the years, and his gutsy 10-8 victory in four hours and 11 minutes was the kind of character-building step that could prove crucial for the man tipped to lead the next generation in men's tennis. Remarkably, Canada posted a second 10-8 fifth set win in the doubles, Pospisil and the 41-year-old Daniel Nestor pipping Ilja Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic in four hours 21 minutes of pulsating tennis.

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