Novak Djokovic. (Photo by: Xinhua/Han Yan)
World No. 2, Novak Djokovic spearheads Serbia’s challenge as the 2010 champions begin their Davis Cup Finals campaign against Japan on Wednesday.
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Note: Team captains have until one hour before the start of play to confirm the players competing.
Djokovic will look to shrug off the disappointment of an early exit at last week’s Nitto ATP Finals as he attempts to lead his country into what would be a second Davis Cup title. The 16-time Grand Slam champion had made a good start to the Nitto ATP Finals, outclassing Matteo Berrettini in his opening group match, but defeats to Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer followed as he crashed out in the round-robin phase. His early exit also ended his hopes of finishing the season as the No. 1 player in the world.
“I’m not happy with the way I finished the season”, Djokovic admitted. “I think it was still a very good season, winning two Slams, and five titles.”
Indeed, Djokovic can look back at another fine campaign which yielded Grand Slam titles in Australia and Wimbledon, Masters 1000 crowns in Madrid and Paris and an ATP 500 title in Tokyo. Can he add some more gloss to the campaign by helping Serbia to a second Davis Cup title?
The 32-year-old played a prominent role in Serbia’s 2010 success, winning all seven of his singles rubbers as the Eastern European nation claimed the title for the first time. Overall, Djokovic is 31-7 in Davis Cup singles rubbers, and has not lost a singles match since he was beaten by Juan Martin del Potro (via retirement) in the 2011 semi-finals.
“Being part of the national team is something that I always valued very much”, said Djokovic, who is back in the Davis Cup scene for the first time since 2017. “I have not played for the Serbia national team for several years, so I missed the feeling of being with my friends, with my colleagues and the guys that create a great atmosphere”.
“We’re going to stay hopefully until the end of the tournament and have success.”
The world No. 2 is joined in the Serbian team by a strong support cast, including top-40 players, Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic, while Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic, who will retire from the sport after the Davis Cup, make up the rest of the team.
First up for Nenad Zimonjic’s men is a tie against Japan, who will be attempting to keep themselves in the competition after losing to France in their opening match on Tuesday.
Yasutaka Uchiyama fell 6-2 6-1 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening rubber of the tie, but Yoshihito Nishioka brought the Japanese back level with a spectacular 7-5 6-2 victory over Gael Monfils to force a deciding doubles rubber.
The Japanese moved within one set of a shock victory when Uchiyama and Ben McLachlan took the opening set tie break against the seasoned French duo of Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, but Herbert and Mahut fought back to secure a thrilling 6-7 6-4 7-5 victory to give French the win.
Japan are weakened by the absence of their No. 1 player, Kei Nishikori, who has not played since the US Open due an elbow injury, but they will be encouraged by how they competed against France and hold out hope that they can take down the Serbians in their second group match. Japan have never won the Davis Cup, with their best performance being their runner-up finish way back in 1921. Their best in recent times was a quarter final showing in 2014- can they beat Serbia and maintain their hopes of returning to the last eight this year?
It’s a tough task against a formidable Serbian team, who can almost tick off a singles point with Djokovic in their ranks, while Krajinovic or Lajovic will also be the favourite against anyone in the Japanese side.
Serbia vs Japan is live from Madrid on Wednesday, 20 November from 10:00am GMT/ 11:00am local time