Serbia has become the 13th nation to be crowned Davis Cup by BNP Paribas champion after completing a 3-2 victory over France in the Final at Belgrade Arena.
With Serbia trailing 2-1 following Saturday’s doubles, first Novak Djokovic and then Viktor Troicki recorded straight set wins to turn the score around in favour of the home team.
Djokovic was in imperious form once again as he took apart Gael Monfils, who was previously unbeaten in Davis Cup play this year, winning 62 62 64 to send the tie into a deciding fifth rubber.
Troicki stepped up to meet Michael Llodra in the decider, both players having been brought in off the bench to replace the originally nominated Janko Tipsarevic and Gilles Simon.
Troicki started brightly and never looked back. He raced through the first two sets and, despite having a minor wobble when leading by two breaks in the third, wrapped up a 62 62 63 triumph in just over two hours.
Classy Djokovic forces decider
Djokovic clearly meant business when he took to the court against Monfils in the first of the reverse singles rubbers on Sunday, knowing that only a win would be good enough to keep Serbia’s hopes alive.
With the pressure of a nation firmly on his shoulders, the world No. 3 delivered a flawless display against a dangerous opponent. He dominated from the outset and didn’t allow Monfils to gain a foothold in the match.
The Frenchman found himself on the defensive too often and it wasn’t until mid-way through the third set that he changed his tactics and began to swing more freely and aggressively. By then it was too late as the damage had already been done.
Djokovic broke serve in the fourth game and then again in the eighth to seal the first set. It was a similar story in the second with a further two breaks enough to put the Serbian No. 1 firmly in the driving seat.
Monfils rallied in the third set and forged a break ahead, much to the surprise of his opponent who was close to going up himself in the previous game before an untimely Hawkeye overrule intervened.
The two players exchanged further breaks before Monfils fatally dropped his serve when attempting to stay in the rubber at 5-4. He saved the first match point but dumped a backhand in the net on Djokovic’s second opportunity.
Djokovic was clearly fired up and embarked on a lap of honour before addressing the passionate Serbian fans to will them into helping teammate Troicki repeat his feat.
Troicki holds nerve to seal title
Troicki has never been renowned for winning close matches, far from it, but fortunately for him this match wasn’t close. He got off to a flying start and an out-of-sorts Llodra couldn’t keep up the pace.
The Frenchman has had a stand-out Davis Cup year but – like in the doubles on Saturday – he never reached the heights that he showed in previous rounds. His serve-volley game didn’t translate well to the slow hard court and time after time Troicki picked him off with ease.
Llodra held his opening service game but dropped the next two. The early signs didn’t look good and he lost the first set without ever really challenging his Serbian opponent.
The left-hander showed glimpses of his old self at the start of the second and immediately went a break up, but hopes of a revival were quickly dashed. Troicki entered a devastating spell during which he won eight-straight games.
With the Serbian nearing the finish line in the third set, he lost his serve after having a game point and thoughts immediately turned to a French comeback, just as Llodra and Arnaud Clement had pulled off in the doubles rubber.
These ideas were soon quashed, however, and Troicki sealed victory – probably the biggest of his career – in style with one final break of serve, sending a winning backhand return past the despairing Llodra on match point.
“This was the greatest experience in my life,” said Troicki. “I still don't believe it. I mean, probably tomorrow or in the next few days I will start feeling the emotions of winning the Davis Cup.
“Seriously, I think we all did a great job this year. I would like to thank everyone, the whole team. We truly believed that we could do it, even though we were 2‑1 down.
“I'm without the words. This is the most easiest [way] to explain. I'm without the words. No words can describe my feeling right now.”
Serbia celebrates first trophy
Even though Serbia’s triumph was spearheaded by Djokovic, it was without doubt a team effort that resulted in the same four players that have competed together all year lifting the trophy in front of their home fans in Belgrade.
As well as winning the fifth rubber of the Final, Troicki pitched in with an important victory in the first round, while Nenad Zimonjic provided the doubles expertise that the majority of great Davis Cup teams require.
Tipsarevic’s performances in the semifinals against Czech Republic were nothing short of miraculous as he recorded wins over Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, but was Djokovic who provided the consistency in every tie.
The world No. 3 prioritised Davis Cup throughout the year and reaped the rewards, reaching hero status by remaining unbeaten for Serbia in singles throughout the campaign.
“To be able to perform as well as we did today under the circumstances is just I think too good,” said Djokovic. “In history, [this is] one of the best sport results this country ever had. This is by far individually and team the best achievements in our career by far.”
Along with lifting the trophy, of course, all that was left was to complete a long-standing promise that the team had made between themselves at the start of the season. They bet each other that if Serbia won the title then everyone would shave their hair off. What better way to celebrate!