Fri, Feb 01, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Serbia’s Djokovic lights up a starless Davis Cup

AFP, PARIS

World No. 1 and newly-crowned Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic goes straight back into action in the Davis Cup this weekend, while his Grand Slam rivals skip the opening round.

The Serb, who collected his fourth Melbourne title and sixth career major with victory over Andy Murray on Sunday, just about catches his breath before leading his country into their World Group opener against Belgium.

However, the 113-year-old competition is not the powerful draw card it once was.

World No. 2 Roger Federer, fourth-ranked David Ferrer, as well as world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro have opted not to turn out for Switzerland, Spain and Argentina respectively.

Murray’s Britain do not have a match, while 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal also misses Spain’s trip to Canada as he completes his recovery from the knee injury which has kept him off court for seven months.

Djokovic and ninth-ranked compatriot Janko Tipsarevic, who spearheaded Serbia’s first Davis Cup title in 2010, should help their country prevail over Belgium in Charleroi.

The home side’s top player David Goffin is ranked only at No. 50.

“The Davis Cup title came in the right moment. I believe that feeling of sharing one of the biggest titles in our sport with my team, for our country, in our country, was one of the best feelings I experienced as a player,” said Djokovic, who skipped the tournament last year.

His absence was felt as Serbia were defeated in the quarter-finals by eventual champions the Czech Republic.

Spain, winners three times in the past five years, and runners-up to the Czech Republic last year, travel to Vancouver without their three top players — Nadal, Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, who has a leg injury.

Almagro has been replaced by world No. 85 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, which should mean Marcel Granollers, the world No. 34, and 51st-ranked Albert Ramos will play the singles.

Canada’s top player is big-serving Milos Raonic, who stands at No. 15 in the world, while, in the shape of Daniel Nestor, they boast one of the world’s most accomplished doubles players.

In Geneva, the Czech Republic tackle Switzerland, who will be looking to world No. 17 Stanislas Wawrinka to win his singles on Friday and Sunday to compensate for the absence of Federer.

Marco Chiudinelli, the world No. 139, will have to play the second singles for a Switzerland side who have never got beyond the first round in eight years.

World No. 6 Tomas Berdych leads the Czech Republic, who are trying to avoid becoming the first defending champions since Spain in 2005 to lose in the first round of the competition.

They have a good record against Switzerland, having won six of the eight meetings between the two nations.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, who have lost all three finals in which they have appeared and are without 2009 US Open winner Del Potro, tackle Germany.

Juan Monaco, the world No. 12, leads Argentina, but Germany boast two players in the top 30 in Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer.

The US, who have won the Davis Cup a record 32 times, face Brazil in Jacksonville.

Brazil’s last win over the US came back in 1966.

The US will be led by John Isner and Sam Querrey, both in the top 20, and the hosts can also call upon doubles kings Bob and Mike Bryan, who claimed a record 13th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last weekend.

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