Novak Djokovic produced a masterful performance on Sunday to help Serbia roar back to defeat Canada 3-2 and set up a Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic.
On a weekend in which the sport’s biggest names, with the exception of Roger Federer, put their individual schedules to one side and donned national colors, Djokovic helped ensure Serbia stayed on course to repeat their 2010 triumph.
Rafael Nadal helped Spain crush Ukraine to retain their place in the World Group while world No. 3 Andy Murray steered Britain back among the elite, with three points in his side’s playoff victory over a weakened Croatia.
In a sport where individual prizes dominate the calendar, the Davis Cup is often regarded as a sideshow, but try telling that to the 15,000 fans who produced a deafening roar in Belgrade.
Serbia trailed 2-1 going into Sunday’s two singles rubbers before Djokovic leveled the tie with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, 6-2 win over Milos Raonic. Janko Tipsarevic then beat Vasek Pospisil in straight sets to spark wild celebrations.
Canada had dreamed of a first Davis Cup final appearance when Daniel Nestor and Pospisil won a doubles cliffhanger on Saturday, but their hopes were ultimately crushed.
“This is one of the sweetest wins of my career and I hereby wish to thank my teammates for their support. See you right here in the final against the Czechs,” Tipsarevic said.
“I think it will be a pretty open match against the Czech Republic. They have Tomas Berdych of course and have a strong doubles team. It’s going to be very tough and I expect a very dramatic final,” he said.
There was nothing dramatic about the Czech’s demolition of an Argentina side missing the muscle of Juan Martin del Potro.
Berdych and Radek Stepanek had put last year’s winners 2-0 ahead on Friday and then teamed up to win the doubles on Saturday.
“It’s definitely very exciting; Davis Cup means a lot, it’s special for us, for the whole country,” Stepanek, 34, said.
“We loved so much delivering the trophy last year — it never gets old and we’d like to keep that trophy because it’s beautiful,” he said.
Like Murray, Nadal was playing in the Davis Cup for the first time in two years, and he proved unstoppable, winning his singles against Sergiy Stakhovsky for the loss of just four games and then partnering Marc Lopez to doubles victory.
Murray beat Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to give Britain a 3-1 lead and put them in next week’s draw for the World Group.
“I’m looking forward to playing against some of the biggest countries in the world. It will be exciting and hopefully I can be part of it,” Wimbledon champion Murray told Eurosport.
Switzerland and the Netherlands beat Ecuador and Austria respectively in their playoffs, while Germany beat Brazil and Australia ended Poland’s hopes of a first World Group appearance with a 4-1 victory in Warsaw.
Belgium and Japan were the weekend’s other playoff winners.