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23 March 2011

Sweden selects Halmstad for Serbia clash


Photo: Arne ForsellSwedish fans

The south-west Swedish city of Halmstad will host a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie for the first time when Sweden takes on Serbia in the World Group quarterfinals on 8-10 July.

Sweden enjoys home advantage for the sixth successive tie and has elected to lay a hard court at Halmstad Arena for the visit of the defending champions.

The multi-sports venue, which will have a capacity of 3,880 for the Davis Cup fixture, opened in 2009 and boasts numerous sports halls, ice rinks and soccer fields, as well as facilities for swimming and athletics.

Sweden booked a place in the last eight with a 3-2 victory over Russia in Boras. The result was actually more comprehensive than the scoreline suggests, as the visitors only got on the board after the tie had been decided.

Robin Soderling and Joachim Johansson won their singles matches on the opening day to put the hosts firmly in the driving seat, before doubles specialists Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt clinched an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Serbia, on the other hand, had to work hard for its 4-1 win against India in Novi Sad. Last year’s champions began their title defence as hot favourites to progress with little resistance, but the absence of Novak Djokovic buoyed their lower ranked opponents.

Somdev Devvarman brushed aside an out-of-sorts Janko Tipsarevic in straight sets to draw the visitors level on day one, after Viktor Troicki had handed Serbia the early lead with a nervy five sets triumph over Rohan Bopanna.

The Indian pair then teamed up on the doubles court against Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic, but it was the Serbian duo who crucially came out on top after a closely contested match. Troicki then defeated Devvarman to seal the tie.

Sweden and Serbia are both expecting their top players, Soderling and Djokovic, ranked No. 4 and No. 2 in the world respectively, to be in the line-up for the tie in Halmstad.

The battle of the No. 1s, which is always the first of the reverse singles rubbers on the final day, could prove to be a pivotal moment in the tie, particularly for the home team who rely heavily on Soderling.

Djokovic is the in-form player in the men’s game at the moment, having not lost a competitive match in 2011, and has history on his side, currently holding a 5-1 lead in his six previous meetings with the Swede.

Soderling’s lone victory, however, came in the most recent clash between the two players at the ATP World Tour Finals in 2009. He also benefits from playing on home soil.

Sweden and Serbia have faced each other on eight previous occasions, with the head-to-head score level at 4-4, although none of these ties took place in the last 20 years and Serbian players were then competing under the flag of Yugoslavia.

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