Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Novak Djokovic has revealed the one thing Serbia needs in order to have a chance of winning the Davis Cup. The world No 1 was part of the squad at this week’s Davis Cup Finals, leading them all the way to the semi-final before losing their tie to Croatia. He was aiming to win the event often seen as the World Cup of men’s tennis for the second time, with Serbia’s last win coming in 2010.
Djokovic chose to extend his season once the ATP Finals were over, joining the Serbian team at the Davis Cup Finals.
The world No 1 had previously spoke of the importance of representing his country in tennis, and reiterated his two biggest priorities during Finals week in Madrid.
“I don’t know if you have seen it or heard it, but always when I said what are the biggest priorities for me at this stage of my career, I always said it’s Grand Slams and playing for the national team,” he said, ahead of the team’s semi-final tie against Croatia.
The 34-year-old kept his team alive in Friday’s (December 3) semi-final after compatriot Dusan Lajovic lost the opening singles rubber to world No 279 Borna Gojo – one of the surprises of this week’s Davis Cup Finals, having now beaten three top 75 players for the first time in his career.
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Following Lajovic’s loss to Gojo, Djokovic needed to win the second singles rubber to keep Serbia in the tie.
Meeting former world No 3 Marin Cilic for the 20th time, the Serb was able to breeze through to a crucial victory for his country, defeating the 2014 US Open champion 6-4 6-1 and extending his head-to-head record against the Croat to 18 wins and two losses.
It meant that a spot in the final came down to the decisive doubles rubber – a tough task for Serbia even with Djokovic on their team, with Croatia home to the world No 1 doubles pairing of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion had already managed to keep Serbia in the competition with a doubles victory alongside Nikola Cacic in the quarter-final against Kazakhstan during Wednesday’s quarter-final.
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However, the squad made the decision to swap Cacic for the higher-ranked Filip Krajinovic, to give Serbia the best chance of beating the top-ranked doubles pairing and win the tie.
Despite Team Serbia and Djokovic’s best efforts, it was the singles world No 1 who lost to the world No 1 doubles team 7-5 6-1, as Croatia advanced to their third final in five years.
Speaking after the match, the 20-time Major champion admitted he didn’t think his home nation would be able to win the prestigious team event without a strong doubles team in the future.
“We tried. It didn’t work,” the world No 1 said, following his team’s attempt to win their first Davis Cup crown since 2011.
“But we definitely need to improve our doubles part of the team.”
He admitted that Serbia needed a doubles pairing that played on the tour year-round – something that has not only benefitted the Croatian team, but has also helped Germany make it to the semi-finals with doubles specialists Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz teaming up for their country.
Great Britain also saw a payoff in enlisting this year’s Australian Open and US Open champion Joe Salisbury, who played alongside doubles specialist Neal Skupski before they lost in the quarter-final.
Djokovic continued: “We need to have a doubles team that is constantly playing together, otherwise it’s going to be a Mount Everest to climb for us every time we play like this.”
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