Match Report

Djokovic-led Serbia sets Australia QF

Serbia beats Czech Republic 2-1
January 02, 2024
Olga Danilovic and Hamad Medjedovic celebrate their win for Serbia at the United Cup in Perth.
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Olga Danilovic and Hamad Medjedovic celebrate their win for Serbia at the United Cup in Perth. By ATP Staff

With the pressure on, Serbia found a way to reach the quarter-finals at the United Cup on Tuesday when they edged past Czech Republic in the decisive mixed doubles match.

Olga Danilovic and Hamad Medjedovic walked onto court against Czechs Miriam Kolodziejova and Petr Nouza needing to win one set to advance to the last eight. After losing the opener, Danilovic and Medjedovic rallied to earn a dramatic 4-6, 7-5, 10-8 win.

Roared on by Novak Djokovic and the rest of the team, Danilovic and Medjedovic produced big-time tennis to win Group E and set a quarter-final clash against Group C winners Australia on Wednesday night. Group A winners Poland will play best runner-up in Perth China in Wednesday’s other quarter-final tie in Perth.

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"It was quite tight, I think, for them on the court, but also us sitting and watching," Djokovic said on the mixed doubles. "Everybody was very nervous obviously knowing that we need a set against players who didn't have anything to lose. Both of them, I don't think they expected to play, the two players on the Czech side that they faced today. They are both specialists in doubles and they were playing really, really well.

"I'm proud of the two of them for raising the level and making it happen for Serbia. So we are through. That's what matters."

Earlier, Djokovic overcame a tricky test from Jiri Lehecka to level the tie. The World No. 1 struggled with a wrist problem throughout the match and recovered from a second-set dip, where he squandered a 3-1 lead, to eventually defeat the 22-year-old 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-1 in two hours and 18 minutes.

Competing in his second match of the new season, Djokovic struggled to find his best level at times inside the RAC Arena. After an inconsistent second set, he received a medical timeout on his wrist and looked to hit with more comfort on his forehand in the decider. He overpowered Lehecka in the third set, reducing errors to win six of the final seven games and earn victory in his first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with the World No. 31.

"It happened in the warmup today before the match," Djokovic said on his wrist injury. "I basically got constant treatment before the match, during the match, after the match, trying to address the issue that I'm facing today in the best possible way.

"It's not the first time that I have faced these kind of circumstances at such a high level of professional tennis. I know professional sport in general, these things happen. I think it's not a major concern, because I still managed to finish the match and managed to play well, even though I maybe wasn't feeling 100 per cent, but still, it allowed me to finish the match. Hopefully I'll have enough time to recover for tomorrow's tie against Australia."

Djokovic holds a standout record in Australia, having won the Australian Open a record 10 times. The 36-year-old has not lost in the country since 2018, when he fell to Hyeon Chung at the hard-court major. Djokovic is making his United Cup debut this week.

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Danilovic, 22, was facing a Top 10 player for just the third time in her career, and fell short of her second win in just over two hours on court. Her best victory by ranking came against then-No. 10 Julia Goerges at the 2018 Moscow River Cup, a tournament she famously won as a 17-year-old lucky loser.

Vondrousova, meanwhile, bounced back after losing to Zheng Qinwen in three sets in the Czechs' 3-0 loss to Saturday. But it didn't come easily for the reigning Wimbledon winner and World No. 7 against an opponent ranked more than 110 places below her.

After a first set that was closer than the scoreboard indicated - Danilovic had a break point in the first game, two more in the third, and two game points in the sixth - the Serb won 12 of the first 14 points of the second set to stake her claim to a 3-0 lead. Though Vondrousova hit back to win three straight games of her own, Danilovic won the next four to not only pocket the middle set, but go up a break to start the decider.

The Czech won five straight games from there, and though she failed to serve out the match in her first attempt at 5-1, she made no mistake in the second.

Danilovic will play Ajla Tomljanovic in the women's singles on Wednesday. The Serbian is ready for the test.

"She's a great player, tough opponent," Danilovic said. "They are a complete team, so it's going to be a tough battle. But I think we proved two times now that we are a team and we play as a team and we win as a team. We're just going to fight, try our best and hopefully win."

Wednesday 3rd January Schedule

RAC ARENA start 10:00 am
H. Hurkacz (POL) vs Z. Zhang (CHN)
I. Swiatek (POL) vs Q. Zheng (CHN)
I. Swiatek (POL) / H. Hurkacz (POL) vs Q. Zheng (CHN) / Z. Zhang (CHN)

Not Before 5:00 pm
A. de Minaur (AUS) vs N. Djokovic (SRB)
A. Tomljanovic (AUS) vs O. Danilovic (SRB)
S. Hunter (AUS) / M. Ebden (AUS) vs O. Danilovic (SRB) / N. Djokovic (SRB)

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