Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Serbia seek historic Davis Cup crown
Enormous passion and the chance to make tennis history are the twin forces driving hosts Serbia into this weekend's Davis Cup final. Out to destroy the dream will be nine-time champions France.
One-time tennis minnows Serbia, which rose from the ashes of the former Yugoslavia, stand on the cusp of a first-ever trophy in the worldwide team competition.
Driving the side is world No 3 Novak Djokovic, pushing himself through a long and tiring season but fully recharged as he tries to carry his nation to new glory.
"Playing in a Davis Cup final is the biggest success that my country ever had," said the 2008 Australian Open champion.
"It's a unique opportunity to have Davis Cup final played at home. Maybe we'll never have this opportunity again and we're looking forward to it.
"I came here on Sunday so I've had time to rest a little bit. Now I'm ready to practise and give my best throughout the weekend."
Joining Djokovic on the side for the first-time finalists are good friends Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki, while Nenad Zimonjic brings confidence from last weekend's victory in doubles at the ATP World Tour Finals.
"It's the biggest achievement that we have as a country, in tennis, which is an individual sport," said Zimonjic.
"We won the World Team Championship last May in Dusseldorf, and without Novak on the team. That shows we have a pretty good team without him.
"But obviously with him it's much, much stronger. I bring a lot with the doubles. But then the second player, which is either Viktor or Janko, they're also doing their part.
"Davis Cup is difficult to compare, it's a completely different achievement."
Captain Bogdan Obradovic is – like counterpart Guy Forget – leaving his final line-up choices to the last minute, to be revealed at Thursday's draw ceremony.
Serbian fans will be out in their numbers at the 16 200-capacity Belgrade stadium, where tickets sold out online in a matter of minutes for the tie, starting with Friday's singles.
Officials have said that despite notorious Serbian football violence, tennis crowds will be well behaved.
The venue is a lucky charm for the hosts, who have never lost there.
DEPTH OF TALENT
But France bring massive depth of talent to the wintery Serbian capital, and are set to field a strong side even without injured (knee) No 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is on hand for moral support.
Forget can pick from two-time Paris Bercy finalist Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and dual-threat Michael Llodra, holder of three Grand Slam doubles finals.
A question mark will be veteran Arnaud Clement, with the 32-year- old hoping for a change of luck after being left out of a Davis Cup finals doubles line-up three times at the last minute.
"I'm ready for doubles," said Clement. "I don't know yet if I'm going to play, that's a question for the captain, but I'm ready to go on court."
Llodra, a Paris semifinalist last month, does not believe that his win at Bercy over Djokovic will count for much.
"Davis Cup is totally different than ATP events."
Like the Serbs, France remain undefeated this season and have reached a final for the first time since 2002 after last lifting the trophy a year previously, 3-2 over Australia in Melbourne.
Courtesy: Super Sport