CHARLEROI, BELGIUM: Despite a spirited effort from Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans and Steve Darcis, it was the experience of Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic which told as Serbia claimed an unassailable 3-0 lead to clinch a place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinals.
After Troicki and Novak Djokovic had won both their singles rubbers on the opening day, it was always going to be a tough ask for Belgium to take the tie to the last day, let alone turn it around. The fact that Bemelmans and Darcis have never played together further highlighted the scale of the task facing the hosts.
Zimonjic’s 18-year Davis Cup career has seen him play with eight different partners. His 64 64 57 64 victory with Troicki today in two hours and 56 minutes further improves their record with each other to 4-1. This successful doubles partnership could prove crucial as Serbia progress through the competition.
Serbia will now likely play USA in April with Jim Courier’s side holding a 2-0 lead over Brazil in Jacksonville. A trip to America appeals to Obradovic but he was just delighted to have got through this tie which he felt was trickier than it may have looked.
“It looks like it was an easy job but it was very tough playing against the Belgian team and in front of thousands of spectators who are cheering for them,” he said. “Still, I want to congratulate my team, they played very good tennis. We went into the second day with lots of positive energy and finally we found the strength to finish the job.”
Bemelmans and Darcis hung in bravely throughout but it was at crucial moments towards the end of the sets in which they failed to hold their nerve. After saving three set points on his serve at 45 in the first set, a wide forehand from Bemelmans on the fourth saw Serbia take the early advantage.
After going down an early break in the second set and with the match looking like it was getting away from them, the Belgian pair did well to break back. But at 45 Darcis put a forehand long to give Serbia a break point for the set and former doubles world No.1 Zimonjic, aged 36, did not hang about, crossing to hit the volley which put Serbia one set away from the tie.
Zimonjic almost clinched it on match point on Bemelmans’ serve in the third set but his drop volley went into the net and the Belgians held for 55, broke Troicki’s serve in the next game and then Darcis served out to love to give the raucous crowd at the Spiroudome hope that a comeback was possible.
But it was when Bemelmans was serving to stay in the set at 45 that the Serbians pounced to earn three match points at 0-40. Two were saved but Bemelmans netted his forehand on the third to falter at the business end of the set once more.
“It was maybe nerves,” said Belgium captain Johan van Herck. “I think it’s also confidence in what you are doing. I think a guy like Zimonjic has done it so many times. Our guys didn’t play together and not that much in doubles. You know if you get a volley you have to finish it and if there is a little hesitation at this level, you pay immediately and that’s what cost us the match today.”
Although van Herck has promised to give it 100% tomorrow in tomorrow’s dead rubbers to gain two points, there will be likely changes within the Serbian team. Obradovic would not be drawn on whether he will field Djokovic tomorrow and Troicki is set to have an ultrasound scan on his hamstring.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Ruben Bemelmans/Steve Darcis (BEL) - 02/02/13
Victor Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) - 02/02/13
Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 02/02/13
Captain Johan Van Herck (BEL) - 02/02/13