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Djokovic dominates, Serbia semi-final-bound

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during a Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match against Britain’s Cameron Norrie in Malaga, Spain, Thursday, November 23, 2023. PHOTO: AP

MALAGA, SPAIN (AP) — Novak Djokovic became the most successful Serbian player in the history of the Davis Cup as he took his nation to the semifinals for the second time in three years with his 21st straight singles victory on Thursday.

The top-ranked Djokovic beat Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 to give Serbia a 2-0 victory over Great Britain and set up a last-four encounter with Italy on Saturday in the top team event in men’s tennis.

It was a record 44th Davis Cup match win overall for Djokovic, moving him one ahead of Nenad Zimonjic. Djokovic now has 40 singles wins for his country.

The Italians beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the other quarterfinal match on Thursday to reach the semifinals for the second straight season. Jannik Sinner kept Italy alive by winning his singles match and he then successfully teamed up with Lorenzo Sonego in the doubles.

Djokovic’s last singles loss in the Davis Cup was when he retired against Juan Martin del Potro in Serbia’s 2011 semi-final defeat against Argentina. Djokovic’s last loss in a completed singles match in the Davis Cup was in 2009.

He is finishing the season in impressive form, having won a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title in a final against Sinner. Djokovic won three Grand Slam titles this year to take his record tally to 24 overall.

He never struggled against Norrie, the top-ranked British player, breaking serve once in each set at the Martin Carpena arena.

In the first singles match, Miomir Kecmanovic beat Jack Draper 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6).

Britain, a 10-time Davis Cup champion, was seeking its first semifinal appearance in four years. It was depleted by the injuries of Andy Murray and Dan Evans.

Without Djokovic, Serbia did not make it past the quarter-final stage last year. It lost to Croatia in the 2021 semifinals. Serbia’s lone Davis Cup title came with a squad led by Djokovic in 2010.

Italy’s Janik Sinner celebrates winning against Netherlands’ Tallon Griekspoor during a Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match between Italy and Netherlands in Malaga, Spain, Thursday, November 23, 2023. PHOTO: AP

The Netherlands got the first point when Botic van de Zandschulp saved three match points in the final tiebreaker to beat Matteo Arnaldi 6-7 (6) 6-3 7-6 (7) in a thrilling opening singles that lasted nearly 3 hours.

The fourth-ranked Sinner beat Tallon Griekspoor 7-6 (3) 6-1 to make it 1-1. He and Sonego defeated Griekspoor and Wesley Koolhof 6-3, 6-4 in the decisive doubles.

“Obviously I was coming here with confidence, but the first day was not easy, and today I started so-so the first set, but still I tried to keep going,” the 22-year-old Sinner said. “I think we are doing all the right things. We are a big family, and today we showed it. Everyone is giving 100%. That’s the least thing players can do, especially when they play for the country.”

Without Sinner, the Italians were eliminated by eventual champion Canada last year.

The Italians won their lone Davis Cup title in 1976, and will be seeking a first final appearance since 1998. Italy has reached seven semifinals this century.

The Netherlands, in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, was trying to match its best-ever performance from a semifinal appearance in 2001.

Australia and Finland will play in the other semifinal match on Friday.