Tennis: Djokovic-led Serbia down Austria in Davis Cup opener

PARIS (AFP) – Novak Djokovic sped past Austria’s Dennis Novak to give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead in their Davis Cup opening match at Innsbruck on Friday (Nov 26).

Djokovic took an hour to beat Novak 6-3, 6-2 after Dusan Lajovic saw off Gerald Melzer 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 behind closed doors due to a resurgence of the coronavirus in Austria.

Djokovic is attempting to end an already memorable year on a high after claiming thee of the season’s four Grand Slams.

Elsewhere Italy were leading the United States in Turin and Spain were ahead of Ecuador in Madrid.

Backed by a hearty home crowd Italy raced into a 2-0 lead over the States thanks to wins from Lorenzo Sonego and Jannik Sinner. Sonego, the world No.27, was ecstatic.

“I played the best tennis of my life,” he claimed after seeing off Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6 (7/4). Sinner then pulverised a static John Isner 6-2, 6-0 in 62 minutes.

In the doubles rubber Simone Bolleli and Fabio Fognini will play Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock while Colombia are the third team in Group E. The 40-year-old Feliciano López opened Spain’s title defence with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador.

“It’s a gift to be back here playing the singles rubbers, I never expected it, I was supposed to play in the doubles but after everything that happened this week here I am.” “I think I did okay,” he said, referring to the absence of Carlos Alcaraz, who went into quarantine on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19.

On the opening day of the revamped 2021 finals brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer helped Sweden sweep aside Canada, France fought back to down the Czech Republic and Croatia crushed Australia.

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The Davis Cup, which began life back in 1900 as a bilateral contest between Britain and the United States, was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This year’s competition sees 12 qualifiers – Australia, Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden and USA – joined by the previous edition’s semi-finalists – Spain, Canada, Great Britain and the Russian Tennis Federation.

These are joined by two wild card nations France and Serbia. These 18 nations are divided into six groups of three, with winners and the top pair of second places going into the quarter-finals pot.

The semi-finals and December 5 final will all be played in the Spanish capital, reward for the team that won the title two years ago after 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


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