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13 February 2012

Serbia face uphill battle against Czechs



  • Zoran Milosavljevic

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicNenad Zimonjic and Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)

NIS, SERBIA: Serbia eased into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over Sweden in their first round tie, but the overall performance suggests the competition’s 2010 winners will have to raise their game significantly if they are to negotiate what will in all likelihood be a much tougher hurdle in the next round.

The result and the way the tie unfolded was virtually a carbon copy of the meeting between the two teams in last year’s quarterfinals, when Serbia beat the Scandinavians 4-1 in Halmstadt.  

The Serbs, who missed world No. 1 Novak Djokovic against the Swedes in front of a passionate 4,000 crowd in Nis, may be without their best player when they visit Czech Republic in April. If that is the case, then the team that overcame Sweden in a packed Cair Hall faces a mammoth task to reach the last four this season, which would emulate last year’s achievement.

The mouth-watering tie will bring back instant memories of the 2010 semifinal in the Belgrade Arena, when Serbia – led by Djokovic – fought back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Czechs 3-2 and reach the final at the first time of asking.

The Serbs then went on to win their maiden Davis Cup title after beating France by the same score in the same venue, which was an impregnable fortress until Argentina earned an impressive win over Serbia in last year’s semifinal.

“It’s going to be a very open match because we and the Czechs have similar rankings in the ATP Tour and both teams have solid doubles, so I expect it to go down to the wire,” Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic said after giving his team an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Sweden on Sunday with a straight-sets win over Michael Ryderstedt.

“I don’t think they will choose clay because it doesn’t really suit them, I reckon it will be an indoor hard court surface but either way we have a fair chance,” he added.

Even though he never really hit top gear against the Swedes, world No. 9 Tipsarevic was at the heart of Serbia’s success having won both his singles rubbers without dropping a set. He beat Ryderstedt after spending more than four hours on court in Saturday’s defeat with Nenad Zimonjic against Johan Brunstrom and Robert Lindstedt in the doubles, which epitomised Serbia’s glaring weakness in the world’s premier team competition.

The Serbs have won just three of their last eight Davis Cup doubles encounters, meaning that Tipsarevic, Troicki and whoever partners Zimonjic will have to be at their very best against the Czechs if they are to overcome them without the talismanic Djokovic, whose gruelling schedule on the ATP Tour comes at a cost for the national team. 

Tipsarevic can take heart from holding his serve consistently in both singles rubbers and firing a barrage of aces in the process, while Troicki, who celebrated his 26th birthday with a laboured four-set win over Ryderstedt on Friday, also did his job as Serbia at least ensured their survival in the World Group for the fifth successive season.

Dusan Lajovic’s impressive display in the dead rubber with a 64 64 win over Sweden’s Filip Prpic will also have boosted Serbia’s confidence, as the 21-year old, ranked No. 204, showed talent which will be a welcome long-term bonus to the team.

With so many top players at hand, team captain Bogdan Obradovic will quite rightly feel spoilt for choice when Serbia are at full strength, but his immediate task of making it two wins out of two against the Czechs will require his team to dig deep into their resources. 

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    Zoran Milosavljevic

    Zoran Milosavljevic is an avid football and basketball fan but reporting on Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties in the last few years has been a welcome addition to his wide range of freelance assignments. Covering Serbia's ties in the Belgrade Arena, where fans create a football-like atmosphere, has been an experience second to none.




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