Djokovic wins twice to lead Serbia to Davis Cup semis

MADRID (AP) – After having to play in an empty arena in the group stage, Novak Djokovic relished being in front of Davis Cup fans again.

Djokovic fed off the energetic crowd from the start on Wednesday, leading Serbia into the semifinals with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Kazakhstan at the Madrid Arena.

The top-ranked Djokovic kept Serbia alive in the quarterfinal by defeating Alexander Bublik in straight sets in his singles match, then teamed up with Nikola Cacic in the deciding doubles for a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov.

Serbia had played its group-stage matches without fans in Austria, because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It makes a huge difference,” said Djokovic, who was constantly turning to the crowd to celebrate during his matches.

“Fans are one of the reasons why professional tennis exists. Playing in front of the fans is very important. They give us great energy, they give us a lot of motivation to try to play our best on the court. In Innsbruck we didn’t have fans so it was a completely different atmosphere.”

Serbia reached the last four for the first time since 2017 and will face Croatia, which got past Italy on Monday.

Serbia broke serve at 2-2 and 5-3 in the third set of the doubles to seal its fifth semifinal appearance in the team event.

Serbia made the last eight as one of the top two second-place finishers from the six groups. It was second to Germany in a group that also included Austria.

Serbia lost to Russia in the quarterfinals of the first edition of the Davis Cup Finals in 2019. Its only title came in 2010 in a final against France, and it was runner-up to the Czech Republic in 2013.

Novak Djokovic. PHOTO: AFP