Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Feliciano Lopez of Spain during their match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic overcame fatigue and an inspired opponent to help Serbia beat Kazakhstan 3-2 in their Davis Cup first-round tie and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with holders Britain in July.
Djokovic beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7(6) 7-6(3) 4-6 6-3 6-2 in an absorbing five-hour contest before Viktor Troicki completed Serbia’s comeback with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 win over Aleksandr Nedovyesov.
Battling cramps while committing a flurry of double faults and unforced errors in the opening three sets, a weary-looking Djokovic drew strength from passionate home support in the Aleksandar Nikolic Arena.
“The fans were fantastic and their support got me out of trouble at key moments in the game,” Djokovic, who had to receive treatment for an eye infection in the week leading up to the tie, told a news conference.
“I was in bad shape after the third set but fortunately I pulled through and won.
“My body told me several times during the match that it’s had enough but with this crowd behind me, my heart and mind prevailed.”
Barely able to stand after the contest, he rallied the fans to fight their own fatigue and stay to support Troicki.
“I know you’ve lost your voices after five hours of cheering, you must be tired, but please stay because Viktor is playing now and needs your support to win,” he said courtside.
Troicki made light work of Nedovyesov in a straight-sets win to give Serbia a home tie against Britain, who were 3-1 winners over Japan, after world number two Andy Murray beat Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori came back from two sets down to force a decider, but Murray held firm and closed it out in four hours and 54 minutes.
(Editing by Toby Davis)
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