September 17, 2013 by Parveer Mann
The mad dash, exaggerated slide and drop shot winner by Janko Tipsarevic to clinch victory perfectly symbolized the effort it took for Serbia to advance to the Davis Cup final this past weekend.
However, if you knew a team with the world number one and the support of a raucous home crowd going against an unproven opponent on a big stage would struggle to advance, you certainly paid attention to the underlying storylines that made the Serbia-Canada matchup the best of the weekend.
How fresh would Novak Djokovic be?
This was an area of concern for most Serbian officials and tennis fans alike. The team would be relying heavily on a player who on the Monday before suffered a four set loss in the US Open final (disheartening enough) and would only travel to Serbia on Wednesday. It had been a situation that Djokovic avoided in both 2010 and 2911 when he was unavailable for the Davis Cup semis.
He would only get one opportunity to practice on the indoor clay (a strange mix between a hard bottom layer and soft, unreliable top layer), so it was reasonable to not know what to expect from Djokovic or if he would bother to play Friday at all. But, the answer to both questions was that Novak looked both comfortable and fresh providing Serbia with two tension free points.
Facing Canada’s best year ever
Another reason for the drama was the simple fact: The 2013 Canadian Davis Cup team was the best the country had ever produced. I’d written previously about the unparalleled heights the program had reached and that all the major components were playing at personal highs.
For Serbia, the Canadian team must have been eerily similar to their 2010 breakthrough and it showed in their play. The Canadians knew they were underdogs all week and played knowing everything had to go their way. That’s a difficult position to be in for Serbia with the pressure squarely on them and some unreliable pieces (excluding Djokovic) carrying that load.
Would Janko Tipsarevic come through?
Once we knew for sure that Djokovic would compete, many eyes turned to the Serbian Number 2 and to see how he would pick up the slack in his all important rubbers. Despite being a former top 10 player, Tipsarevic was seen as a wild card on the Serbian team due to his year-to-date performance (19-19) and falling ranking (in the 20’s to start the week). So, if you were a Canadian supporter, you could hope for no better situation than a Pospisil vs. Tipsarevic showdown to decide a spot in the finals.
But, it was also a spot that Tipsarevic seemed to relish as he played some of his most motivated and best tennis in key moments (especially those two deciding tiebreakers). He proved his veteran resiliency and seemed to feed more off the crowd than any other Serbian player this week. He spoke to this after the match,
“This is one of the sweetest wins of my career and I wish to thank my team mates for their support.
“See you right here in the final against the Czechs.” -Tipsarevic, ndtv.com
This sudden boost of confidence will be important to sustain for him and Serbia as he will no doubt be asked to be a key figure against the Czechs in November.
Highlights of the Davis Cup Weekend
Great Britain and Switzerland both earned places in next year’’s exclusive World Group this past weekend.
For Great Britain, it is their first return to the top tier since 2008 and next year will be the first real chance for Andy Murray to compete in meaningful Davis Cup matches.
For Switzerland, 2014 may be the last real chance for Roger Federer to have a run at one of the trophies that has eluded him during his storied career.