Djokovic-led Serbia down Austria at Davis Cup Finals

Published November 28, 2021
TURIN: John Isner of the US in action during his match against Italy’s Jannik Sinner at the Davis Cup Finals.—Reuters
TURIN: John Isner of the US in action during his match against Italy’s Jannik Sinner at the Davis Cup Finals.—Reuters

PARIS: Top-ranked Novak Djokovic secured a victory for Serbia, 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez got defending champions Spain off to a solid start, and a young Italian team rolled past the 32-time champion United States in the Davis Cup Finals on Friday.

Djokovic beat Dennis Novak 6-3, 6-2 to give Serbia a 2-0 lead over host Austria in Innsbruck after Dusan Lajovic had defeated Gerald Melzer 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-5 to open the best-of-three series in Group ‘F’.

The victory extended Djokovic’s winning streak in Davis Cup singles matches to 15.

“It feels great to play for Serbia again,” said Djokovic, who helped his country win the Davis Cup in 2010 but more recently failed to win a medal in either singles or mixed doubles at the Tokyo Olympics. “It’s been a long year but you always find motivation playing for your country.”

Nikola Cacic and Filip Krajinovic made it a clean sweep for Serbia with a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3 win over Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald.

In Madrid, Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta helped holders Spain to an insurmountable 2-0 lead over debutants Ecuador.

Veteran Lopez breezed past Roberto Quiroz 6-3, 6-3 before Carreno Busta fought back from a set down to beat Emilio Gomez 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) and secure victory for Spain.

Carreno Busta then returned for doubles action with Marcel Granollers and the Spanish duo earned a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-2) win over Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo.

Backed by a hearty home crowd, Italy raced into a 2-0 lead over the States thanks to wins from Lorenzo Sonego and Jannik Sinner in Turin.

Sonego, the world No.27, was ecstatic. “I played the best tennis of my life,” he claimed after seeing off Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Sinner then pulverised a static John Isner 6-2, 6-0 in 62 minutes.

In the doubles rubber Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock struck back for the States in a 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win over Simone Bolleli and Fabio Fognini to make it 2-1, while Colombia are the third team in Group ‘E’.

On the opening day of the revamped 2021 finals brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer helped Sweden sweep aside Canada, France fought back to down the Czech Republic and Croatia crushed Australia.

The Davis Cup, which began life back in 1900 as a bilateral contest between Britain and the United States, was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This year’s competition sees 12 qualifiers — Australia, Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden and USA — joined by the previous edition’s semi-finalists — Spain, Canada, Great Britain and the Russian Tennis Federation.

These are joined by two wild card nations France and Serbia.

These 18 nations are divided into six groups of three, with winners and the top pair of second places going into the quarter-finals pot.

The semi-finals and December 5 final will all be played in the Spanish capital, reward for the team that won the title two years ago after 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2021



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