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08 March 2011

Holders Serbia face stern test in Sweden



  • Zoran Milosavljevic

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicJanko Tipsarevic (SRB)

NOVI SAD, SERBIA: Defending champions Serbia weathered an opening day storm to reach the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinals with a 4-1 home win over India, but their overall performance suggests they will have to improve if they are to advance into the last four.

The Serbs, who were without top player Novak Djokovic, will need to have the world No. 3 back in their ranks for what promises to be a mouth-watering clash with Sweden.

The Swedes, who will be at home against the holders, went through after taking an insurmountable 3-0 lead against Russia before the visitors added some respectability to the score, winning Sunday’s dead singles rubbers.

“It’s definitely going to be a very tough tie and we should have Djokovic back for the match against the Swedes,” Serbia team captain Bogdan Obradovic said after his team did enough to see off a spirited Indian challenge.

“Djokovic had made it clear he would be unable to play this time but also said he would be available for the quarterfinals, meaning that we will go to Sweden confident that we can go a step further in our objective to retain the silverware,” Obradovic added.

Although the Serbs always looked likely to be too strong for India, whose doubles specialists Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi missed the tie due to injury, the outcome often appeared to hinge on just a few points which mostly went the home team's way.

World No. 18 Viktor Troicki, named Serbia’s leading singles player in Djokovic’s absence, gave the home fans in Novi Sad’s SPENS sports centre a real fright in the opening singles before he won a nerve-jangling five-setter against Rohan Bopanna, ranked 611 places below him.

Janko Tipsarevic was then brushed aside by Somdev Devvarman, who made the score 1-1, while Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac had to dig as deep as they could to win Saturday’s doubles, having lost the opening set to Bopanna and Devvarman. The Serbian pair saved three set points in the fourth set and swung the tie Serbia’s way with a late flurry when the match appeared to be heading for an even more dramatic climax.

With the pendulum on Serbia’s side, Troicki confidently swept away Devvarman in straight sets to give the home team an unassailable 3-1 lead before a fired-up Tipsarevic beat late replacement Karan Rastogi 60 61 to complete a somewhat flattering 4-1 win.

“It was indeed a lot more difficult than the score suggests and we will definitely need our best player Novak Djokovic back if we are to compete with Sweden on an even keel,” Tipsarevic said.

“They have a tremendous leading singles player in Robin Soderling and Joachim Johansson is a former Top 10 player who is showing signs of returning to the top level, so we expect a very difficult challenge but we will be ready for it.

“Sweden has a passionate home crowd well known for creating a cracking atmosphere and they will make it that much more difficult for us, but we are looking forward to an exciting weekend there.”

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    • Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)Viktor Troicki (SRB)
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