HALMSTAD, SWEDEN: Serbia went into their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal against Sweden as favourites despite the fact that the tie was being played on foreign soil.
In large part that was due to the fact that Bogdan Obradovic’s side arrived in the seaside town of Halmstad with the world No. 1 and newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in their ranks.
But as it transpired, it was Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki who won all four points for their team and ironically the only involvement for Djokovic was losing the doubles rubber alongside Nenad Zimonjic.
Still, the defending champions proved they will be tough for anyone to defeat such is their strength in depth, and by overcoming an under-strength Swedish side 4-1 they have set up a high-quality World Group semifinal against Argentina on 16-18 September.
“I’m really excited because we are playing a semifinal back home in Belgrade against Argentina,” said a delighted Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic after his side had won all four singles rubbers, albeit two by retirement. “It’s going to be a huge match.”
He’s not wrong. Both Serbia and Argentina have three players ranked in the Top 30, both have Grand Slam champions in their midst. Add to that the passion of two nations who love the competition playing in front of 20,000 vocal fans inside the Belgrade Arena and you have a heady cocktail of sporting entertainment.
Obradovic feels the key to Serbia winning the semifinal against Argentina will be the choice of surface. “One of the biggest decisions in that match is what surface we are going to put in the Belgrade Arena,” said the Serbia skipper. “Del Potro doesn’t play that good on really fast surfaces, he plays better on a higher bounce, so we will prepare something against him.”
With Djokovic winning Wimbledon and becoming the new world No. 1 and Serbia reaching the semifinals for a second straight year to extend their winning streak in the competition to seven ties, it has been a good week for Serbian tennis.
In contrast, Sweden must try to find some positives to take from what was a rather one-sided encounter. They were without their No. 1 player, Robin Soderling, and will be losing one half of their experienced doubles team when Simon Aspelin retires next week, but Sweden’s captain Thomas Enqvist remains hopeful for the future.
“We have a few players coming up,” he said. “You saw two of them here this weekend, Ryderstedt and Eleskovic, who play well and both of them are also pretty good doubles players. I think it’s a shame to lose Simon but I understand him and I would like to thank him a lot for everything that he has done for Swedish tennis.”
Enqvist hoped that the experience of playing Davis Cup would help his two new boys to progress and inspire them to try to compete for the spot of Swedish No. 2, behind Soderling.
For now, Sweden will be focussed on next year’s competition and Serbia will be preparing for a semifinal showdown in Belgrade.