Coming into today’s rubbers with a 1-2 deficit, Serbia faced a monumental challenge in trying to win its first ever Davis Cup title. Yet, with an inspired performance from Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki, disappointment would not be in the cards. Backed by a raucous home crowd, the Serbs carried both singles matches against France to claim their initial Davis Cup title.
On Friday, Gael Monfils put France in the driver’s seat with a 6-1,7-6,6-0 victory over Janko Tipsarevic. Subsequently though, Djokovic dispatched a pesky Gilles Simon 6-3,6-1,7-5 to square the ties at one all.
On Saturday, Nenad Zimonjic and Troicki blew a two set to love advantage as Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement roared back to triumph 3-6,6-7,6-4,7-5,6-4.
With France ahead 2-1 and only three prior nations overcoming a doubles loss to take the Davis Cup, it was a near certainty that the Frenchmen would prevail. France could almost taste its tenth title, its first time since 2001.
In the opening rubber this afternoon, Djokovic took on Monfils. With his steady play, Djokovic quashed Monfils 6-2, 6-2,6-4 to push a decisive tie.
Picking style over substance, Monfils attempted an ill advised shot at 30-0 which proved unsuccessful. A series of errors followed to give Djokovic his initial break and a 3-1 lead. After a forehand up the line winner for break point, Monfils committed another mistake. Eventually, Djokovic expanded his advantage to 4-1 and broke a second time to wrap up the first set.
Despite a better start to the second set, serving at 2-3, Monfils made three consecutive miscues to go down love-40. When the Frenchman sent another backhand down the line long, Djokovic secured the break and consolidated for 5-2. With great defense, Djokovic obtained triple break/ set point. When Monfils’ slice forehand found the net, Djokovic pocketed the second set.
A Monfils double fault handed Djokovic a break point to commence the third set. Next, a called double fault which would have given Serbia the break was overturned by a Monfils challenge. Two more break points ensued, but, Monfils held serve for 1 all. Then, the Frenchman turned the tables on Djokovic, breaking for a 2-1 edge. France appeared revived. However, unable to escape his nature, in selecting bad shots, Monfils saw his advantage go up in smokes. Later though, Monfils provoked a forehand mistake from Djokovic to get double break point and by crushing a forehand winner up the line, Monfils converted for 4-3. Still, Djokovic promptly redeemed himself to level the set. After a comfortable game for 5-4, on a Monfils double fault, Djokovic arrived at double match point. With Monfils netting a backhand, Djokovic gave the thousands in the arena what they had hoped for, a fifth rubber.
At first, the schedule had Tipsarevic clashing with Simon. Instead, Llodra and Troicki were called upon to jump the last hurdle for their respective their countries. With Llodra’s come from behind win in doubles and his perfect record in singles this season, France seemed in a win-win situation. Yet, Troicki blocked out the previous afternoon’s fiasco and crushed Llodra 6-2,6-2,6-3.
After failing on a couple of passing shots the opening game, Troicki connected on two backhand passes for winners to take a 2-1 lead. With Llodra unable to handle a couple of forehand volleys, Troicki stretched his lead by a double break at 4-1. From that point, Troicki never looked back and finished off the set.
Early in the second set, Llodra broke for a 2-0 advantage. However, with another forehand crosscourt pass for winner, Troicki readily got to break point. When Llodra flubbed a forehand volley, the players were back on serve. With Llodra butchering volleys left and right, Troicki bagged a break for 3-2. Later, with Troicki successfully passing at will, Llodra saw six game points vanish. Ultimately, Troicki earned a second break and built a two set to none lead.
Because of a double fault, Llodra handed Troicki the first game of the third set. Then, Troicki double faulted to gift Llodra a break point. Promptly though, the Serb recovered to guard serve for 2-0. Subsequently, with a return winner, Troicki had double break point. Thanks to another Llodra double fault, Troicki had a 4-1 edge. Perhaps a touch nervous, Troicki gifted Llodra one break. With a love hold, Llodra narrowed the deficit to 3-4. After Troicki easily held, serving at 3-5, Llodra dumped a backhand volley into the net donating double championship point. Down the road, with a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner, Troicki closed out the match to become Serbia’s newest hero.
Ironically, this was not the first time France had been victimized. In 2002, playing at home, France was devastated as Russia overcame a similar 1-2 handicap to deny them the trophy. Today, the small nation of Serbia with a population just over seven million became only the 13th country to capture the Davis Cup.