The world No.1, Novak Djokovic, swept past Austria’s Dennis Novak as Serbia thumped Austria 3-0 in their Group F Davis Cup opening match at Innsbruck on Friday requiring just an hour to complete a 6-3 6-2 victory after Dusan Lajovic had delivered the first point against Gerald Melzer, 7-6 3-6 7-5.
I love to play for my country, when they need me, I'm here, Novak Djokovic
The Serbians completed the 3-0 victory over the hosts with Nikola Cacic and Filip Krajinovic eventually downing Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a tie played behind closed doors following the government’s decision to lockdown Austria in their battle against rising Covid-19 cases.
The pandemic is still a major issue and with a new strain emerging from South Africa, the tennis world still awaits Djokovic’s decision as to whether he will comply with the rules the Australian Government has set for entry into their country for the first grand slam of next season.
In the interim he has set his mind on winning this year’s Davis Cup after extending his winning streak in Davis Cup singles matches to 15.
“I love to play for my country, when they need me, I’m here,” he said, and he has done them proud by helping the team lift the trophy 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,” he added.
Elsewhere Italy, without the injured Matteo Berrettini, their top player, beat the United States 2-1 in their Group E opener in Turin while the injury hit Spaniards conquered Ecuador in their first Group A rubber based in Madrid.
Unlike Innsbruk, the Italians had a loud and loyal crowd to roar them on and both Lorenzo Lorenzo Sonego and Jannik Sinner responded by delivering the two singles points, the former defeating Reilly Opelka 6-3 7-6(4) and the latter then crushing John Isner 6-2 6-0 in just 62-minutes.
In the doubles rubber Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock struck back to earn the visitors a consolation point 7-6(5) 6-2 over Simone Bolleli and Fabio Fognini for a final 2-1 scoreline.
Filippo Volandri, the Italian captain, was pleased with the result. “There were a lot of firsts today: Sonego and Sinner made their Davis Cup debuts, I made my debut as captain, Musetti also made his debut and played with Fognini for the first time. But this is only the first step,” he said.
In the absence of the injured Rafa Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut, it was left to teenager Carlos Alcaraz to lead the Spanish challenge but then he had the misfortune on Thursday to test positive for Covid which meant his withdrawal and quarantine!
The 40-year-old veteran, Feliciano Lopez was called up to replace him and he successfully opened the Spanish defence of the title by defeating Roberto Quiroz 6-3 6-3.
“It’s a gift to be back here playing the singles rubbers, I never expected it, I was supposed to play in the doubles but after everything that happened this week here I am. I think I did OK” the popular veteran said of his promotion.
Lopez was followed by Pablo Carreno Busta who beat Emilio Gomez 5-7 6-3 7-6 to give the hots an unassailable 2-0 lead.
This year’s revamped competition sees 12 qualifiers – Australia, Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden and USA – and following the cancellation of the competition last year, joined by the 2019 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 Madrid.