NIS, SERBIA: Having won the 2010 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title at the first time of asking, when they beat France 3-2 in a memorable final in the Belgrade Arena, Serbia reached last year’s semifinals and were beaten by Argentina at the same venue.
The Serbs and the Argentines could meet again in the 2012 semifinals, with the latter facing a tricky tie against Germany while Serbia are strong favourites to beat Sweden at home in what should be a captivating atmosphere in the southern city of Nis.
The Cair Hall in Serbia’s second biggest city is known as something of an impregnable fortress for away teams in any sport, much like its medieval fort overlooking the Nisava River, which runs through the city centre. The home fans invariably create a deafening roar whenever Serbia taken centre stage and tickets for the eagerly awaited Davis Cup sold like hot cakes.
Even without the world’s top player Novak Djokovic, off to nearby Mount Kopaonik for a week-long skiing holiday after defending his Australian Open title last month, Serbia should be too strong for an inexperienced and under-strength Swedish team missing their own best performer in Robin Soderling.
Serbia strolled to a 4-1 away win over Sweden in last year’s quarterfinal and anything but another emphatic victory over the Scandinavians would in all likelihood represent the shock of the first round. Still, Serbia’s team captain Bogdan Obradovic struck a note of caution and reminded a jam-packed press conference room in the Nis City Hall that the visitors had won the title seven times between 1975 and 1988.
“We have a lot of respect for the Swedish team because they have a long tennis history and they will certainly not just roll over for us,” Obradovic said after the official draw pitted Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic against Filip Prpic in Friday’s opening singles rubber, while his compatriot Viktor Troicki takes on Michael Ryderstedt.
The home team’s doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and Tipsarevic meet Johan Brunstrom and Robert Lindstedt in Saturday’s doubles, while Tipsarevic plays Ryderstedt, and Troicki locks horns with Prpic in Sunday’s reverse singles.
Troicki, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on Friday, was confident Serbia could seal the tie on Saturday while Tipsarevic said he believed the 2010 winners had it in them to take another shot at the title.
“Although we will miss Djokovic in the first two rounds, I see no reason why we shouldn’t try to win the whole thing again,” the world No. 9 said. “We have very good players and even though it’s going to be tougher without Djokovic, we should be aiming for the trophy every season after winning it in 2010. Djokovic’s success has been an inspiration for all of us and it’s incredible that this year’s world athlete of the year comes from Serbia,” said Tipsarevic, referring to the 13th annual Laureus World Sports Award Djokovic received in London earlier this week.
Sweden team captain Thomas Enquist acknowledged his team faced a difficult task against the tie’s hosts. “It’s going to be tough because Serbia is a fantastic tennis nation and they have a very strong team. But we are positive because we have been preparing really well and we are really looking forward to the contest,” he said.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Tipsarevic (SRB) v Prpic (SWE)
R2: Troicki (SRB) v Ryderstedt (SWE)
R3: Tipsarevic / Zimonjic (SRB) v Brunstrom / Lindstedt (SWE)
R4: Tipsarevic (SRB) v Ryderstedt (SWE)
R5: Troicki (SRB) v Prpic (SWE)
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Captain Thomas Enqvist (SWE) - 09/02/2012
Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 09/02/2012
Filip Prpic (SWE) - 09/02/2012
Michael Ryderstedt (SWE) - 09/02/2012
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) - 09/02/2012
Viktor Troicki (SRB) - 09/02/2012