Belgrade: Novak Djokovic is eyeing another Davis Cup win in Belgrade as he leads Serbia against the Czech Republic in the final which gets under way on Friday but much may depend on whether Janko Tipsarevic is fit or not.
After sweeping world number one Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the ATP Tour Finals in London on Monday, second-ranked Djokovic illustrated how determined he is to beat the defending champions in his home city.
“God knows if we’re going to have as a country another opportunity like this to win a Davis Cup title at home,” said the 26-year-old, whose country won its only Davis Cup title in 2010 beating France 3-2 also in Belgrade.
“We have very tough opponents, but the Davis Cup is the only team competition in our sport that brings the best possible energy and willpower in me,” he added.
In Belgrade, few have doubts that the trophy will return to Serbia — giant posters on the arena advertising the tie scream ‘Povratak trofeja’, or ‘Return of the trophy’.
But while Djokovic is widely expected to grab two points from his singles rubbers, the rest is in the air as Tipsarevic, ranked 36 in the world, is desperately trying to win his battle to recover from a heel injury.
“I’m still in the recovery process,” Tipsarevic told reporters on Wednesday.
“I tried practising a little bit without any pain but hopefully we will sit down tonight and make a final decision whether or not I am going to play and what is going to happen.”
Missing world number 76 Viktor Troicki over a doping ban, Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic will also have doubles specialists Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic at hand.
The fourth name remains unknown as Tipsarevic attended Wednesday’s press conference alongside 117th-ranked Dusan Lajovic and lower-ranked Filip Krajinovic and Boris Pashanski.
The Czechs, playing their third Davis Cup finals in five years, lifted the trophy last year after beating Spain in Prague.
They defeated Argentina 3-2 in this year’s semi-finals — their eighth straight Davis Cup victory — while Serbia saw off Canada by the same score in Belgrade.
The team relies on the chemistry between world number seven Tomas Berdych and 44th-ranked Radek Stepanek. It also comprises 47th-ranked Lukas Rosol and 104th-ranked Jan Hajek.
Berdych and Stepanek teamed up in 2007 and have since won 13 of their 14 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together.
Djokovic “will have the conditions he loves and his fans,” said the 28-year-old Berdych, who has won only two of his 16 encounters with Djokovic.
“But the nice thing about the Davis Cup is that you need to win three points and you have five attempts,” he added.
“We’ll never grow tired [of winning]. Last year we made history, and we’re hungry for more,” said Stepanek, a 34-year-old veteran.
The Czechs are not at full strength either — they lost their long-time non-playing captain Jaroslav Navratil, who was hospitalised with a pulmonary embolism last week and replaced by Vladimir Safarik.
The Czech Republic and Serbia last clashed in the 2012 quarterfinals, which the Czechs won 4-1 in Prague.
Two years earlier, Serbia had beaten the Czechs in the semi-finals in Belgrade 3-2.
The 2012 Davis Cup win was the first for the Czechs since Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the trophy in 1980 with a team led by then 20-year-old Ivan Lendl.
HALL OF FAME
Recent winners of the Davis Cup, ahead of the 2013 final between Serbia and the Czech Republic, which begins in Belgrade on Friday:
2012: Czech Republic
2007: United States
1995: United States
1992: United States
1990: United States
32: United States
9: France, Great Britain