Novak Djokovic will lead his depleted Serbian team against the visiting Czech Republic in the Davis Cup finale this weekend in Belgrade. Djokovic, winner of his last 22 matches, will be absent of his two best teammates, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki.
Tipsarevic bowed out of the tie with a heel injury while Troicki is still on suspension. But, Djokovic said, they’ll still have the vocal Serbian crowd on their side.
“The crowd support is very important, maybe crucial,” said Djokovic. “Not just in my match but in the match of Dusan Lajovic. The crowd is actually a key player in those matches. With their support, if’s the same as what we have had in previous years, then everything is possible.
The 23-year-old Lajovic, ranked 117th, will debut Friday on the hardcourts against Tomas Berdych while Djokovic faces Radek Stepanek in the opener.
“I would say it’s very exciting,” said Lajovic who went 0-4 in ATP play this year. “I have been feeling like this since I heard the news. I hope that this positive energy will lead me to play my best game on Friday. To play for your country in such an important match is incredible.
“From one side, Tomas will be the toughest player I have ever played. From the other side, maybe the good thing could be that he doesn’t know me so I might have some advantage in the opening games of the match. I just hope that I can give my best and try to surprise him.”
Serbia is seeking a second Davis Cup title this decade. The Czechs are looking for their second straight after beating Spain last year.
“There is no tougher cookie than this one, playing Novak in front of his own crowd after the run of form that he has had,” said Stepanek. “Definitely it’s a challenge but all I can do is try to play my best tennis and see where I can push him.
“I am ready to do no matter what it takes. If I have to be on the court five hours a day, this is my job. I’m here for the team and I’m here for my country to give everything.”
With the Czechs likely to pocket two singles wins over Lajovic, Djokovic is also expected to play doubles to avoid Lajovic from having to win a deciding fifth rubber.
“We know that Novak is playing the best tennis in the world so he is the one that is capable of winning three matches in this tie,” said Obradovic. “We have discussed playing him in the doubles if he is mentally and physically ready to play that. When you have him on the court, the Czech team will have huge pressure.”
The last four Davis Cup finals have been won by the home team.
SERBIA v CZECH REPUBLIC
Head-to-head: Czech Republic leads 6-5
This is the 12th meeting between the two sides, who inherited the historical records of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, but only their third meeting as independent nations. Czech Republic won their last meeting 4-1 in the 2012 quarterfinal in Prague. Serbia won in Belgrade in the semifinals in 2010, recovering from 2-1 down en route to their first Davis Cup title after Novak Djokovic and Tipsarevic recorded a famous victory after winning the reverse singles rubbers.
R1: Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
R2: Dusan Lajovic (SRB) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R3: Ilija Bozoljac/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) v Jan Hajek/Lukas Rosol (CZE)
R4: Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)
R5: Dusan Lajovic (SRB) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)
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