World No. 1 Novak Djokovic steered Serbia to the brink of the Davis Cup quarter-finals on Friday, easing past Belgium’s Olivier Rochus on a makeshift court he described as the worst he has ever encountered.
Australian Open champion Djokovic needed just an hour and 39 minutes to beat 32-year-old Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to give Serbia a 2-0 lead in their World Group first round tie after Viktor Troicki took five sets to defeat David Goffin.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Djokovic had lambasted the clay court laid out over the parquet floor at the Spiroudome de Charleroi.
“It’s the worst court I have ever played on. It’s very, very dangerous,” the world’s top player said.
However, the International Tennis Federation said that the court was playable, insisting that they had laid 12 temporary clay courts on wood since 2009 without problems.
“It wasn’t easy playing on clay after a long time indoors and coming from Australia quite late,” Djokovic said.
“At the start I had trouble with movement and getting used to the conditions, but I managed to play my best tennis when I needed to,” he said.
Troicki battled back from two sets down against Goffin to win 1-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 as Serbia, the 2010 champions, eyed reaching the World Group quarter-finals for a fourth consecutive year.
Sam Querrey and John Isner powered 32-time champions the US to a 2-0 lead over Brazil in Jacksonville, Florida.
Querrey fired 15 aces to beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the opener.
Isner, who missed the Australian Open with a knee injury, then pounded 32 aces past Thiago Alves in a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory.
With their formidable doubles duo of Bob and Mike Bryan due up on yesterday the US looked to be in prime position to advance to face either Belgium or Serbia.
Spain, winners three times in the last five years, were on the ropes in Vancouver where Canada seized a 2-0 lead over the visitors, who were making do without Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro.
Milos Raonic got Canada off on the right foot with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Albert Ramos, and Canadian veteran Frank Dancevic needed just one hour and 48 minutes to beat Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
The winner of the tie will face either Italy or Croatia.
Marin Cilic gave Croatia a 1-0 lead in Turin with a 6-1, 6-7 (6/8), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Paolo Lorenzi, who had replaced flu-hit Fabio Fognini.
However, Andreas Seppi pulled Italy level with a 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-4 win over Ivan Dodig.
France took a commanding 2-0 lead over Israel in Rouen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No. 8, beating Amir Weintraub 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, before world No. 10 Richard Gasquet breezed past Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Defending champions the Czech Republic finished the day in Geneva at 1-1 against Switzerland.
Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss team’s No. 1 in the absence of Roger Federer, saw off Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
World No. 6 Tomas Berdych then defeated Finland-born Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1.
The winners of the tie will meet either Kazakhstan or Austria in the last eight.
Kazakhstan lead 2-1 in Astana, having won both singles matches on Friday before the Austrians bounced back to take yesterday’s doubles.
In the singles Andrey Golubev beat Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) and Evgeny Korolov saw off the experienced Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-2.