With the closing of the season’s final Grand Slam, attention shifted to the Davis Cup World Group semifinals over the weekend. Dating all the way back to the 1900s, Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men’s tennis. In an individual sport like tennis, the importance of team competition such as Davis Cup and Fed Cup has often been overshadowed, but its prestige and history is undeniable.
The draw pitted the mighty Serbs against the giant-killing Canadians, while the Argentines locked horns with the Czech, in a repeat of last year’s semi. Featuring the world’s top players, both ties had prospects of being hugely enticing encounters. Serbia, champions in 2010 hosted first-time semifinalists Canada in their own backyard in Belgrade. Led by world number one, Novak Djokovic and the immensely talented Janko Tipsarevic, the Serbs had a formidable line-up and went into the weekend’s fixture as the big favorites. The Canadians, however, were on a good run this year, as they took down five-time champions Spain in the first round before getting the better of the Italians at home.
On the opening day, Djokovic got the hosts off to the perfect start with a routine straight sets win over youngster Vasek Pospisil, winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. In contrast, the second match was a much closer affair. Towering at 6’5”, Canada’s top card Milos Raonic had to rely on all his offenses to outlast Tipsarevic in five sets of gripping clay court tennis. In a see-saw battle of momentum shifts, the Serb took the first set before Raonic fought back in the second. The two split the next couple of sets to set up a dramatic finish in the fifth. On the brink of defeat, facing match point in front of a vocal home crowd, the Montenegrin-born Raonic delivered the final knockout blow, 10-8 in the fifth to level the tie.
Locked at 1-1, Saturday’s doubles rubber was extremely crucial for both the teams. The Serbian team captain’s decision to not play Djokovic in the all-important doubles, proved costly for the hosts. The pair of Zimonjic and Bozoljac went down in a marathon, lasting 4 hours and 20 minutes, to the Canadian duo of Nestor and Pospisil. Heading into the final day’s play, the Canadians were on the brink of a major upset. But order was restored as both Djokovic and Tipsarevic won their reverse singles to clinch the tie and a spot in the final, where they will meet old rivals Czech Republic.
By comparison, the defending champions were much more convincing in their 3-0 semifinal win over Argentina in Prague. Relying heavily on their trusted duo of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, the Czechs raced to a 2-0 lead on the opening day. Missing the presence of their star players David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro, the South Americans could not hold off the strong Czech challenge. Runners up on four different occasions, Argentina are yet to lift the trophy and they will have to wait at least another year.
In November, the Serbian capital will see Serbia and the Czech Republic renew their rivalry for the ultimate prize in men’s team tennis, the coveted Davis Cup.