Croatia knock Serbia out

Novak Djokovic’s dream of leading Serbia to a second Davis Cup title was shattered on Friday when neighbours, Croatia, twice former campions, knocked them out of this year’s competition at the semi-final stage.

I'm very happy that I managed to get those big wins, ranking wise, but for me it's more important that I managed to get the point for the team. Borna Gojo

As expected, the tie went to the deciding rubber where Djokovic (having brought the Serbians back into the competition by levelling the singles rubbers), in partnership with Filip Krajinovic, lost 7-5 6-1 to the top-ranked Olympic and Wimbledon champions Mate Pavic & Nikola Mektic.

“Novak showed why he is the best player in the world but there are four people on the court in the doubles and we played an amazing match,” Mektic said after clinching Croatia’s place in the final.

“They served really well in the first set, but we took advantage of their level dropping a little bit in the second.”

Losing the doubles has highlighted the Serbian weakness, as Djokovic pointed out.

“We always knew this was going to be the toughest match of the tie,” he said. “In order to win the Davis Cup [again], we need to have more doubles players — we need a doubles team.

“These guys are the best in the world. They always know exactly where the ball is going to land and if you don’t hit a perfect shot, you’re in trouble.”

Croatia, the 2005 and 2018 Davis Cup winners, will face either Russia or Germany in Sunday’s final.

As mentioned, the world No.1 had earlier levelled the tie when he defeated Marin Cilic for the 18th time to keep Serbian hopes alive.

Novak Djokovic (R) shakes Marin Cilic's hand after defeating him to level the tie.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Djokovic, unbeaten in all his singles rubbers in the competition since 2011, triumphed 6-4 6-2 over the 33-year-old former US Open champion, to record his 19th successive Davis Cup singles victory.

Cilic, a former world No.3 now down at 30, carved out eight break points on the Djokovic serve but was unable to convert a single one.

In the opening rubber, Croatia’s Borna Gojo, ranked a lowly 279, pulled off a surprise 4-6 6-3 6-2 win over world No.33 Dusan Lajovic.

Gojo has played well above his world ranking in the tournament and showed real mettle against Lajovic to come back from a set down, especially after letting slip a 4-2 and 40-0 lead in the first set, losing 17 of the next 18 points.

Borna Gojo enjoys the moment)

Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images

He also saw off Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego (ranked 27) in the quarter-final and Australia’s Alexei Popyrin (67) in the group stages.

“In the first set I was up 4-2 40-0, I was in control, I slipped in that game there. I got down on myself a little bit, but then the captain and the teams and the fans picked me back up,” said Gojo.

“Obviously Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is bigger on everyone and I managed to play some of my best tennis here at this tournament.

“I’m very happy that I managed to get those big wins, ranking wise, but for me it’s more important that I managed to get the point for the team.”

Croatia had lost both their previous meetings with their Balkan neighbours.

The first came in Split in 2010 when Serbia won 4-1 in the quarter-finals en route to winning the competition and the second was five years later when they were whitewashed 5-0.

Defeat for Serbia meant Djokovic has now closed his 2021 season having missed out on the first calendar Grand Slam by a male player in more than half a century when he lost the final of the US Open, and also seen his dream of a singles Olympic Gold medal dashed in Tokyo.

However, with both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal out of action, he managed to join them on 20 grand slam titles and extended his Masters’ record to 37 titles.

He also ended the year as world No.1 for a record seventh time and on Monday he will have been at the head of the rankings for 350 weeks.

Now the pressure is on Djokovic to reveal whether he will play in Australia by abiding by the pandemic rules which the government has implemented. Will he double jab in time for the first grand slam of the season in January?

He has refused to reveal whether he has been vaccinated or not — or intends to, while his father intimated his son is being’ blackmailed’!

“I know what you want to ask but I am not going to give you an answer tonight,” Djokovic told a virtual news conference after a question was raised as to when he can be expected back on court.

“Obviously, Australia is just around the corner, so you’ll know very soon.

“I will use the next days to recover and forget about tennis. I am really tired from this season and this whole year. I need some family time now and we’ll see what the future holds,” he concluded.



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