BELGRADE, SERBIA: Davis Cup by BNP Paribas 2010 winners Serbia marched into the competition’s 2013 final after Janko Tipsarevic subdued Vasek Pospisil 76(3) 62 76(6) in the decisive rubber to complete an epic 3-2 win over Canada in Belgrade’s Kombank Arena.
Earlier on Sunday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic put Serbia on level terms after beating Milos Raonic 76(1) 62 62 with an effervescent performance which pumped adrenaline into a passionate 15,000 home crowd ahead of the final act.
The Serbians will meet old rivals Czech Republic at the same venue in the November 15-17 final after the Czechs went through the motions on the final day of their semi-final against Argentina, having secured an unassailable 3-0 lead on Saturday before losing the reverse singles.
Djokovic drew first blood in the opening set when he broke Raonic to take a 4-2 lead, but the towering Montenegrin-born Canadian responded straight away to stay on an even keel until the tie-break, when Djokovic seemed to move up a gear and garnished his barrage of unstoppable shots with a delicious lob as he nosed ahead in the match.
The Serb let his emotions show when he made an early break in the second set count, raising both arms while letting out a loud roar after saving three break points to go 3-1 up.
With Djokovic being able to tame Raonic’s big serve as the match wore on, there was little the 22-year old Canadian could do to stop the Serb from asserting complete control of the slugfest.
Djokovic broke again to lead 5-2 and then served out for the set, finishing it with a lovely crosscourt forehand which left the bedazzled Raonic wrong-footed.
The atmosphere reached boiling point midway through the third set, with Djokovic dispatching a myriad of superb shots, including another delicious lob, to conjure a 3-0 lead and leave Raonic resigned to his fate.
“Winning the 2010 trophy was an inspiration to all of us to excel the following season on the ATP Tour and that’s why it has a very special place in my heart,” an emotional Djokovic told a news conference ahead of Tipsarevic’s rubber against Pospisil.
“I’ve won a number of Grand Slams but nothing compares to sharing the joy of victory with your team mates, who are there for you and cheer on every shot you take on the court in the Davis Cup.
“I think I played two outstanding matches given that I had to make a rapid change of time zones and surfaces (after the U.S Open final defeat to Rafael Nadal in New York on Monday).
“The home crowd support carried me to victory. I returned serve well and tried to force Raonic into long rallies because I knew I’d have the upper hand in that department, and I was also aware that my experience in the competition could be a telling factor,” he said.
Raonic was impressed with Djokovic’s performance and conceded he had work to do in order to get into the same bracket with the world No.1, while he also heaped praise on both sets of fans.
“I don’t think I could have done anything much better because he played extremely well and showed what kind of level you need to produce against him to have a chance of winning,” the 22-year old Canadian said.
“Unfortunately, I played my best shots when I was trailing but I will take happy memories from this tie because I was overwhelmed by the reception of the Serbian fans and also the Montenegrin people who came down here to see it.
“I also wish to thank the Canadian fans who made the long trip to come and support us and I hope we can continue to move forward in the World Group and give them even more to cheer about.”
Having overcome a nervy first set, with Pospisil receiving treatment for a sore elbow at the end of the fourth game, Tipsarevic enjoyed plain sailing in the final two after producing his best shots in the tie-break.
After sending Pospisil tumbling down with a crisp backhand drop-volley to stay in the opening set, Tipsarevic raced through the second after he conjured a myriad of winners against his battling opponent.
The electrifying atmosphere reached fever pitch when Tipsarevic broke serve to take a 3-0 lead in the second set and although Pospisil fought hard against the tide, forcing a third-set tie-break with some brave returns, he was unable to stop Serbia from setting up a third meeting with the Czechs in the last four seasons.
Late drama was not to be avoided though, as Tipsarevic blew a 6-2 lead in the tie-break before he sealed the match in the most unlikely fashion, getting on the end of a Pospisil volley just in the nick of time to send it over the net and past his unfortunate opponent, who had tumbled down. The young Canadian appeared to hurt himself as he sent the ball back into Tipsarevic’s half of the court and after being helped into his post-match press conference he confirmed he heard "a few things pop" in his ankle as he went down.
An elated Tipsarevic was mobbed by an ecstatic Serbia squad, with Djokovic leading the celebrations, before telling the crowd in a courtside interview: “This is one of the sweetest wins of my career and I hereby wish to thank my team mates for their support.
“See you right here in the final against the Czechs,” he added.
The upcoming blockbuster will pair the two sides for the third time in the last four seasons, with Serbia winning the 2010 semi 3-2 before the Czechs got a measure of revenge with a 4-1 quarterfinal win in 2012.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) - 15/09/2013
Captain Bogdan Obradovic (SRB) - 15/09/2013
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 15/09/2013
Novak Djokovic (SRB) - 15/09/2013