BOISE, IDAHO, USA: A run of nine consecutive games by Novak Djokovic saw him close out Sam Querrey and in doing so secured Serbia a place in the semifinals of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group.
In two hours 35 minutes the world No.1 finished things in blistering fashion and scored a 75 67 61 60 victory, giving Serbia an unassailable 3-1 lead over the USA. The final rubber was not played.
It was a dramatic start to the match as Djokovic dropped to the court on his knees in the third game of the match. Querrey was serving and at 30-40 when Djokovic lifted off the ground to play a forehand, when he came back down his right ankle turned in an angle it was not meant to. The replays on television were very much cringe and “agony” viewing.
“Obviously it's very strong emotion when you play for your country; I guess that's the biggest reason why I kept playing,” said Djokovic. “Injuries are a part of sport, and you try to avoid as much as you can as an athlete. The nature of the injury is still to be determined. One hour, one hour and a half after the end of the match, all I can say now is it doesn't look good.
“I don't know. I'm very happy, very emotional about the win today. It meant a lot to me personally and the whole team and the nation, and we are very glad to be in semifinals again. So what's going to happen for me next is to try to first of all diagnose and determine the nature of the injury and how bad it is, and then see from there.”
Djokovic was given intense treatment courtside and he was having plenty of trouble putting any weight on his right foot. He went back onto the court and managed to break serve and went up 3-1 but a double fault in the sixth game allowed Querrey to break back and make it 3-3.
Djokovic broke Querrey in the eleventh game when the American put a forehand into the net and a game later the Serb, on set point, got the benefit of Querrey sending a backhand wide.
The second set went with serve and in the eleventh game Djokovic had two break points but Querrey saved them only to have two set points of his own in the 12th game. Querrey played some erratic shots to allow the set into a tiebreak which swayed back and forth.
Even though Djokovic was continuing to play and giving it all he could, it was obvious that he was not 100% and he was compensating with his movement and making adjustments to how he was serving and hitting some of his shots in an effort to protect his right ankle.
Querrey scored another set point in the breaker and this time Djokovic helped him along by netting a forehand. Djokovic indicated that he was not going to give in. He thought about the doubles combination of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac the day before with their stirring win over the Bryans and that motivated him even more.
“It wasn't about my win Friday or today, it was just about the team win, the team effort. That's something that is very special and beautiful about this competition. You can represent your country and you get to be a part of a team. You get to feel the team spirit that carries you on to victory,” he said.
“Yesterday's doubles win was extremely important for us. As you can see, today we managed to win a tie, after first match not being worried about what's going to happen in last few matches.
“Nenad, I have to say that he has had so much experience playing doubles, and he has played for the last 15 years for Serbia. He's like an older brother to all of us. I know it's difficult for him because he never has a partner and he plays always on Davis Cup. It really changes depending on the tactics and the conditions that we singles guys feel.
“So there were a great team. The way we celebrated yesterday after doubles it was like we won the tie, because we knew how much it means to us.”
After Querrey claimed the second set most expected the match to remain competitive but the issue now was that Querrey was having his own injury issues. His right pectoral muscle was troubling him and his serve velocity dropped from 125mph to under 100mph. It took away his biggest weapon.
“It was a pec issue. It hurt on my serve and I wasn't able to get my usual pop, and that's tough when you're playing against the best returner in the world,” said Querrey.
“He broke me early and got some momentum and then just kind of started swinging more freely, started playing the backhand down the line a little more, which he hits that better than anyone. He started to become a great frontrunner at that point. Made it tougher on me. He could just swing freely and balls kept dropping in.”
In addition to that Djokovic had a very different view of things with his own game and he raced through the set, breaking serve in the second and sixth games. In 26 minutes the set was done.
Now relatively pain free after the pain killers had kicked in, Djokovic was playing with all guns blazing in the fourth set. He took eleven of twelve games to close out the match and cement the semifinal spot for Serbia.
“Novak is such a complete tennis player. We've seen him grow over the years not only game‑wise but mentally,” said Jim Courier. “If Novak twists his ankle, he goes from being the absolute best mover in the world to being just one of the great movers on the tour. You take away his ability to maybe slide to the forehand, but nothing else changed.
“You take away Sam's serve, that is a different change. That would be like stripping Novak of his movement. That's one of Sam's two big key weapons. His serve went from 130 to barely over 100 at times just because he couldn't get it there because of his pec.
“There are not a lot of holes to pick on Novak. That's why he's ranked where he is and won what he has and why he got through today. Experience, shots, and in the end he had more than enough to get through the tape.”
So Serbia will be at home to Canada in the semifinals after Milos Raonic scored their winning point.
See scores or watch highlights here
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 07/04/2013
Sam Querrey (USA) - 07/04/2013
Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 07/04/2013
Novak Djokovic (SRB) - 07/04/2013