HALMSTAD, SWEDEN: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will lead his country into battle against Sweden on the first day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal taking place at the Halmstad Arena.
The Australian Open and Wimbledon champion has lost just one match so far this year and he is keen to preserve that record all the while helping Serbia to defend the title they won last year.
“Davis Cup is always important,” said Djokovic. “Me being here proves enough how I value this competition and how much I like playing for my country.”
The man charged with stopping Djokovic tomorrow is Davis Cup debutant Ervin Eleskovic. Ranked No. 355 in the world, the 24-year-old was actually born in Serbia but moved to Sweden at a very young age.
Eleskovic was excited to hear that he would be given the chance to pit his skills against the in-form player in world tennis. “It’s like a dream come true,” he said. “It’s my first time playing Davis Cup for Sweden in front of a home crowd and to be playing the Wimbledon champion and world No. 1 Novak – it really is like a dream.”
The Swedish No. 2 will need to be wide awake if he is to pull off an upset against Djokovic but history is on his side. He holds a perfect record against the Serbian star having defeated him in a junior tournament in France at the age of 12 – not that he remembers.
Djokovic, however, does recall that defeat and is keen to make amends when proceedings get underway tomorrow. “We know Eleskovic quite well but I haven’t seen him play for a long time,” he added.
Sweden’s No. 1 Michael Ryderstedt was drawn to play Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in the first rubber of the tie which kicks off at 3pm local time (1pm GMT) before the David and Goliath clash between Djokovic and Eleskovic.
Saturday’s doubles rubber sees Wimbledon runner-up Robert Lindstedt and Simon Aspelin, who revealed he will be announcing his retirement after the Swedish Open next week, taking on Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic.
Despite having the best players on paper, Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic refused to take his opposition lightly this weekend.
“We don’t feel like we are favourites,” he said. “We are just a normal tennis team and we like to play for our country. We are proud of Novak becoming No. 1 and winning a great tournament like Wimbledon. We are focused on this match and we have a lot of positive energy with us and we will do anything to make sure we win this match in Sweden.”
His opposite number Thomas Enqvist knows his side face a difficult task if they are going to cause a major upset but thinks Eleskovic’s and Ryderstedt’s relative inexperience might help his team.
"I think it’s probably a positive for them that nobody has any expectations on them but a lot can happen in Davis Cup and it’s important that if the opportunity arises they are ready to take their chance for Sweden,” he said.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Michael Ryderstedt (SWE) v Viktor Troicki (SRB)
R2: Ervin Eleskovic (SWE) v Novak Djokovic (SRB)
R3: Simon Aspelin / Robert Lindstedt (SWE) v Janko Tipsarevic / Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)
R4: Michael Ryderstedt (SWE) v Novak Djokovic (SRB)
R5: Ervin Eleskovic (SWE) v Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Watch this tie live at: DavisCup.tv
Novak Djokovic (SRB) - 07/07/2011
Ervin Eleskovic (SWE) - 07/07/2011
Captain Thomas Enqvist (SWE) - 07/07/2011
Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 07/07/2011