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Team Serbia and Team Russia face off for a place in the ATP Cup final.

Serbia Looks To Use 'Home' Advantage Against Russia

Djokovic battles Medvedev; Lajovic takes on Khachanov in Saturday semi-final

The members of Team Serbia and Team Russia are thousands of kilometres from their homes as they compete in Sydney at the ATP Cup. But after the Serbian squad experienced full-throated fan support throughout their quarter-final victory over Canada, they said it felt like they were playing at home. They'll look to use the vocal crowd in Ken Rosewall Arena to their advantage when both teams meet on Saturday for their semi-final clash.

On paper, there’s little separating the two powerhouse lineups. Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov are undefeated in singles for Russia, while Novak Djokovic matched that effort for Serbia and Dusan Lajovic is 3-1 in singles play. Each country also sports a 3-1 record in doubles. With both teams in top form, the Serbians hope that fan support can provide the slight edge that pushes them into the title match.

“When you have most of the stadium backing you up after every point, it makes a significant difference in terms of how you feel on the court,” Djokovic said. “Of course, you're focussing on your game and what needs to be done tactically, but at the same time, you're playing in a stadium. If the majority of the stadium is backing you up, it's easier. You find that strength. You find that motivation.

“When you're down, they lift you up. You feel more alert, more responsible because so many people are backing you up and supporting you that you have to deliver your best game. You want to play in this kind of atmosphere all the time, but it’s not always possible. That's why I try to cherish these kind of moments and take them with me anywhere I go.”

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A blockbuster battle in the No. 1 singles match will see Djokovic take on Medvedev. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 3-2, including a four-set victory in last year’s Australian Open. But Medvedev has prevailed in their past two matches and picked up where he left off last season, which saw him finish the year with a Tour-leading 59 match wins.

“I like to play Novak. The matches with him are something special,” Medvedev said. “He’s one of the three best players in history, so of course it was great to beat him a few times, but every match is a new one. Every match is so tough with him and that's how you progress, so I like to play against these top players.”

The No. 2 singles match features Khachanov squaring off with Lajovic. The Serbian holds a 2-0 record over Khachanov, but this will be their first meeting on hard courts. Lajovic found a new gear during his victory on Friday against #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and said the vocal Sydney fans have fueled him to deliver his best tennis.

“The energy that they bring is unique. If you look at the overall season, there is not one place where you have as many Serbians as here because we don't have any tournaments in Serbia,” Lajovic said. “When you have them in stadiums, it's usually the minority of the fans, and here they are the majority. I think that this feeling cannot get old. The more they pump you up, the more energy you feel. Just thinking about it, I can get the goosebumps now. I think it really helps us a lot here in the ATP Cup.”

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Should the tie come down to doubles, Serbia will likely elect Djokovic and Viktor Troicki. The pair won their winner-takes-all match in Brisbane against last year’s Wimbledon finalists Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France). Khachanov/Medvedev went 1-1 in Group F play and Teymuraz Gabashvili/Konstantin Kravchuk have won both of their matches at this event without dropping a set, but Russia has yet to play a live doubles match.

Team Serbia captain Nenad Zimonjic said he hasn’t decided on a doubles pairing yet. But if Djokovic and Lajovic bring their current form, he’s optimistic that they can get the job done in singles.

“The Russian team is extremely tough. I would say that they have two really strong players, but also having Novak on [our] team and then Dusan in high form, I think everything is possible there,” Zimonjic said. “We'll see how it goes after singles, but I think in both matches, we can win both of those.”

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