Any hopes of Great Britain succeeding in the final stages of this year’s Davis Cup were dashed by Serbia who proved more than resilient to knock the Brits out of the competition at the quartet final stage in Malaga, Spain.
Jack Draper carried the responsibility of getting the Brits off to a good start in the opening rubber when he faced Miomir Kecmanovic, and, despite all his best efforts, the youngster who has been blighted with injuries this season, couldn’t pierce the Serb’s defences.
The 21-year-old was handed the job when Dan Evans was forced to pull out with an ankle injury, and knew full well that he had to secure a win to give the doubles pair a chance to snatch the final point as Novak Djokovic was certain to win the second singles.
Draper who is ranked 60 to Kecmanovic’s 55, was playing in only his second Davis Cup tie while his opponent was appearing in his 11th so there was a disparity in experience which the Serb was able to take advantage of.
There was little to choose between the two protagonists, but it was Kecmanovic who proved the stronger whenever he came under pressure and was able to take the crucial opportunities when they arose, aided by two double faults from the Brit in the first-set tie-break – for 2-0 and 5-2 respectively – which set the scene in favour of the Serbs.
Draper saved a match point at 6-5 and looked like he could rally but a point later it was all over 7-6(2) 7-6(6).
“It’s difficult knowing that Cam has to go and play Djokovic,” Draper said, acknowledging the task ahead for his compatriot, Cameron Norrie when he takes on the world No.1.
“I back Cam but it’s definitely a tough challenge to go out there knowing that there is a lot more pressure on me to win the match,” Draper added.
“That’s the kind of pressure that if I want to be a top player, I have to cope with and perform under. It’s tough not to get the win today.”
Unfortunately, Djokovic proved too strong for Norrie as he romped past the top Briton, 6-4 6-4 taking control early and dropping just eight points on his serve.
The only ‘problem’ faced by Djokovic, was a British fan who heckled him and he reacted as he usually does, antagonising him by blowing a kiss in his direction when he won the opening set, then cupping his ear in the group’s direction when he won.
“It’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line and in the heat of the moment you react too, and in a way show that you don’t allow this kind of behaviour,” Djokovic said.
“They can do whatever they want, but I’m going to respond to that. That’s what happened.
“I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match.”
While Serbia now advances to meet Italy, 2-1 winners over The Netherlands, in the semi-finals, Britain returns to the qualifying stages like this year — unless they get a wildcard.
The other semi-final pitches Australia and Finland, both nations having respectively scored 2-1 victories over Czechia and Canada, the reigning champions.