‘To God’s ears’ – Djokovic makes Davis Cup vow

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas during their Davis Cup World ...
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas during their Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals single match in Belgrade on April 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)

Novak Djokovic vowed to spearhead Serbia’s Davis Cup semi-final clash against France in September, telling reporters: “From your mouth to God’s ears, I’ll do my best to be there”.

Serbia will travel to France for the semi-finals from September 15-17, but with the clash coming just five days after the US Open in New York, the world number two was asked to confirm he will play.

Djokovic, 29, starred in 2010 when Serbia defeated France in the final in Belgrade for their only Davis Cup title.

Having won a 12th successive singles rubber in the tournament on Friday to set Serbia on their way to this weekend’s quarter-final victory against Spain, the 12-time major winner is crucial to his country’s hopes of returning to the final for the first time since 2013.

“I’ll do my best to be available for the semi-finals. We appreciate playing for our country, we wish that we get the strongest team and to fight with them.”

Djokovic believes nine-time champions France will be desperate to avenge their defeat in the 2010 final when they squandered a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 after dropping both of the final day’s reverse singles.

Djokovic was responsible for one of those losses before Viktor Troicki clinched the winning point.

“They are motivated because for a long time they have not won the title and I believe that they still remember the Belgrade defeat.”

Back in Belgrade on Saturday, Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic defeated Pablo Carreno-Busta and Marc Lopez 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 to seal victory over Spain.

In Rouen, France also took an unassailable 3-0 lead against Great Britain in their quarter-final.

However, the identity of the other semi-finalists will not be known until Sunday after 32-time champions United States pulled back to 2-1 down against Australia in Brisbane while Italy battled to trail Belgium 2-1 at Charleroi.

Djokovic and Troicki had won Friday’s singles to give Serbia a 2-0 lead over Spain before the hosts took an unassailable advantage on Saturday against the five-time champions who were missing 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.

Victory gave 40-year-old playing-captain Zimonjic, who has not missed a Davis Cup tie for a decade, a 30th win in the tournament.

“He had pressure, he put himself into play and did a great job,” said Troicki of the veteran who also played in the 2010 final.

France reached their fifth semi-final in eight years when Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau defeated Britain’s Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot 7-6 (9/7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.

The win in the doubles followed Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy taking the opening singles on Friday as Britain suffered in the injury-enforced absence of world number one Andy Murray.

Mahut and Benneteau, both 35, have played more than 200 matches together in their careers.

That experience proved crucial for a home side who went into the quarter-final without their leading singles players, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet.

– ‘Damn sight better’ –

“We had a great weekend, it gave me goosebumps,” said France captain Yannick Noah whose team last won the title in 2001 and have lost three finals since.

Britain team captain Leon Smith defended his team who were champions in 2015 when Murray starred.

“Of course, we lack depth, that’s pretty bloody obvious,” said Smith. “But it’s a damn sight better than it used to be.”

In Brisbane, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock kept American hopes alive with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Australia’s John Peers and Sam Groth.

The win sets up an intriguing final day, with Nick Kyrgios getting the chance to win over the Australian public when he takes on Sock in the first of the reverse singles.

In Charleroi, Italy’s Andreas Seppi and Simone Bolelli saved a match point to see off Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6).

Belgium, runners-up in 2015, had taken a 2-0 lead on Friday against the team who had stunned defending champions Argentina in the first round.

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