BELGRADE, SERBIA: David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro left Davis Cup by BNP Paribas holders Serbia with a mountain to climb after winning their opening singles rubbers on Friday to give Argentina a 2-0 lead in their semifinal clash.
Nalbandian beat Viktor Troicki 64 46 62 63 to put the competition’s 2008 finalists Argentina ahead before Del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner, swept aside Tipsarevic 75 63 64 to send a small but vociferous band of Argentina supporters into raptures.
Serbia’s hopes of reaching a second successive final, following last year’s memorable 3-2 win over France in the Belgrade Arena, suffered a huge setback before a ball was hit, when world No.1 Novak Djokovic pulled out of his scheduled match with Nalbandian due to lower back and rib pain.
Exhausted and battered by his gruelling exertions in New York, where he won his first US Open title on Monday, Djokovic arrived in Serbia less than 24 hours before the tie started and could not recover in time for what was always going to be a tough match against Nalbandian.
The former world No.3, now ranked 74th on the ATP Tour, produced a performance reminiscent of his prime against Troicki and silenced the normally 15,000 home crowd in the Arena, where the Serbs have an unbeaten Davis Cup record.
"I felt very good on the court, I think it was a tough match in which I found a way to win and give Argentina the first point," Nalbandian told a post-match news conference.
"I was prepared to play either Djokovic or Troicki, we knew Djokovic might not play because these things can happen in the Davis Cup, either way I think I played really well. The crowd created a great atmosphere out there and I really enjoyed it." he said.
Troicki drew first blood when he broke his opponent in the third game of the opening set but Nalbandian showed no nerves, as he broke back in the sixth and again in the ninth before he held serve to take the opening set.
The roles were reversed in the second set, when Troicki carved out a double break point in the ninth game and took the second before he levelled the score to get the home fans going.
Serbia’s supporters, however, were silent for the rest of the contest as Nalbandian produced a flurry of winners in the third set, including an audacious lob which had the Argentinian contingent in the terraces, all wearing the country’s blue-and-white soccer team shirts, in full swing.
Nalbandian raced through the fourth set just as impressively to seal the tie in two hours and 51 minutes.
Del Potro could also do no wrong against Tipsarevic, having broken the Serb in the final game of the opening set to open the floodgates. Tipsarevic had saved four set points on his serve in the 10th game to stay in the set but faded rapidly after dropping serve to hand Del Potro the lead.
It was mostly one-way traffic as the Argentine hit a superb crosscourt backhand winner to break serve again in the fourth game of the second set, as Tipsarevic’s body language showed in no uncertain terms that a comeback was unlikely.
Tipsarevic somehow held his own until the seventh game of the fourth set, when Del Potro again capitalised on several unforced errors by the Serb, who committed a staggering total of 51 against his opponent’s 24.
Del Potro wrapped up his impressive win in two hours and 32 minutes with an ace on his second serve, with Argentina now surely hoping to seal the tie in Saturday’s doubles.
Nenad Zimonjic and Tipsarevic now face the daunting task of keeping Serbia’s hopes alive when they take on Juan Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela, with the reverse singles scheduled for Sunday.
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Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 16/09/2011
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) - 16/09/2011
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) - 16/09/2011
Captain Tito Vazquez (ARG) - 16/09/21011
David Nalbandian (ARG) - 16/09/2011