x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Serbia reach first final

Djokovic brings country back into play after beating Berdych to tie the series.

Novak Djokovic, centre, celebrates his win in the Davis Cup for Serbia.
Novak Djokovic, centre, celebrates his win in the Davis Cup for Serbia.

BELGRADE // Janko Tipsarevic beat Radek Stepanek to take Serbia into their first Davis Cup final with a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Tipsarevic's 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 win came after Novak Djokovic had brought Serbia back into the match by beating Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to tie the best-of-five series at 2-2.

In the final, on December 3-5, Serbia will host France, who beat Argentina 5-0 in the other semi-final. Tipsarevic proved to be Serbia's key player, winning both of his singles. Djokovic, the US Open runner-up, had a lethargic start but rode the support of his hometown crowd of 15,000 in the Belgrade Arena that even used vuvuzelas to fire up their team. He dropped his serve in the seventh game to lose the first set.

Djokovic, No 2 in the world, skipped the opening singles on Friday because he was still tired from last Monday's US Open final against Rafael Nadal and only returned from New York two days before the match. He played doubles on Saturday in a losing effort that left Serbia trailing 2-1 and Djokovic had to beat Berdych to keep hopes alive. Djokovic came into the match with a 2-1 career edge over Berdych but the seventh-ranked Czech had won their Wimbledon semi-final. Berdych then lost the final to Nadal.

There were two scary moments for the Serbian team in the second set. Djokovic was down 30-0 before recovering for a 3-2 lead. In the next game, Djokovic tried to reach a smash from Berdych but slipped and fell heavily. He needed a medical break but returned with a bandage on his right knee to win the next three sets in a row and give Tipsarevic his chance later in the day. "I felt sleepy in the first set but it didn't last long," Djokovic said. "I woke up when I fell but fortunately I was not hurt. And I felt a volcano of energy coming from the fans," he said.

"He's a big fighter. He doesn't need much to get back into a match," said Berdych, the Czechs' top player who lost both singles matches. * Associated Press