Published: September 5, 2018 12:51:21 am
As Serbia prepares to host India in the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs in 10 days’ time, the home-team will compete without the services of their talisman Novak Djokovic. The 13-time Grand Slam champion and former world no 1 has opted to skip the tie, just as he did at the same stage of the tournament in 2014 when the Serbians travelled to Bangalore. In Djokovic’s absence, similar to the match-up from four years ago, the Serbians will be led by the duo of Filip Krajinovic and Dusan Lajovic.
Since the two countries last met, Krajinovic, who remained undefeated over the two singles rubbers he played in India, has shot up in world rankings from the 107 back then to the 33 at present – his career best is 26. The tie will mark the return to the Davis Cup fold for the 26-year-old, who last played in the World Group Semifinal loss to France last year.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Lajovic has been a regular for his team since the 2016 season. Against India, the world no 62 had beaten Yuki Bhambri in the opening rubber but lost to Somdev Devvarman in the fourth match, which levelled the tie at 2-2. Krajinovic then went on to play and win the decider against Bhambri in straight sets. The Serbian lineup for the September 14 tie will also consist world no 89 Laslo Djere, Pedja Krstin (194) and Nikola Milojevic (199). Barring Krajinovic, all the Serbs competed against the United States in opening round World Group loss in February. Compared to the Indian outfit though, the Serbians boast players with a much higher ranking. The Indian team will be headed by their no 1 singles player Bhambri, who is placed 96 in the world, followed by Ramkumar Ramanathan (134) and Asian Games bronze medallist Prajnesh Gunneswaran (160).
For the doubles rubber, the Indians will field the pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, who recently won gold in the men’s doubles event of the Asian Games. The doubles rubber is arguably the match India will have an upper hand in since the Serbian squad is made of singles specialists.
“It’s obviously good news that Djokovic won’t be coming, but they’ve still got strong players that we will have to work really hard against,” says India’s Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali. “Then there are the conditions that need to be dealt with as well which will make things more difficult.”
Under the captaincy of Nenad Zimonjic, who had also played in the tie in 2014, the Serbians have opted to play on the indoor clay courts of the Kraljevo Sports Venue.
The Indians in turn are expected to arrive in Belgrade by Saturday and will attempt to acclimatise to the conditions before moving on for the tie to Kraljevo in central Serbia.
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