Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic swept past Oliver Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to give Serbia a commanding 2-0 lead over Belgium in Charleroi after yesterday’s opening singles in their Davis Cup first-round series.
Today, Serbia can progress to the next round with a victory in the doubles.
Earlier in the day Viktor Troicki fought back from two sets down to beat David Goffin 1-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4 and give Serbia its first point.
Despite the switch from the fast hardcourt conditions in which he won his third straight Australian open on Sunday to the slow, sticky indoor clay of the Spiroudome, Djokovic dismissed the 127th-ranked Rochus without a hitch. He had complained about the clay court as being dangerous because it was too wet, but it never showed in his game, as he turned the match into a demonstration of skill and stamina.
Belgium had a chance to make it an exciting weekend when their top player, the 50th-ranked Goffin, easily won the first two sets and only had to hold serve deep in the third for victory. But he buckled under the pressure, and Troicki came back to win the tiebreaker and had the better nerves to complete an unlikely comeback.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina took a 1-0 lead over Germany in the first round of the Davis Cup when Philipp Kohlschreiber had to retire when leading 5-4 in the deciding fifth set, walking off a sweltering clay court with a leg injury to hand the match to Carlos Berlocq. Berlocq won 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 4-5.
Kohlschreiber gave into the leg injury and temperatures hovering around 32C in a four-hour match in the Argentine capital. “I can’t believe what I’m experiencing,” Berlocq said after beating Germany’s top player.
“I told myself I had to take advantage of this opportunity that was given to me.”
Argentina, who defeated Germany a year ago in the first round, are playing without their No 1 player Juan Martin del Potro, who chose to focus on tour matches and skip this round of the Davis Cup.
The 14,000-seater stadium was one-third full with many Argentines away on holiday, put off by the heat or uninspired by a match without top-name players.
Juan Monaco faced Florian Mayer in the second match, while David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos are expected to face Tobias Kamke and Christopher Kas in doubles today.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet won their opening singles in contrasting fashion to give France a 2-0 lead against Israel in Rouen.
While the eighth-ranked Tsonga had to overcome a sloppy third set to beat Amir Weintraub 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, Gasquet followed up with a far more convincing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win against Dudi Sela. “It went well today, it wasn’t easy as people thought it might be. They’re both very good players,” France captain Arnaud Clement said. “We’re very happy. Richard played very well in the second match.”
Tsonga seemed to be cruising until his shot-making fell apart in the third set, where he made 13 unforced errors as Weintraub broke him twice to get back into the match. Tsonga looked increasingly nervous in the fourth set but was given several reprieves as Weintraub made numerous errors when he went for winners. Tsonga retrieved two big forehands and earned a match point when Weintraub missed an easy smash, and closed out the victory when the Israeli returned into the net.
“I did the essential. I wasn’t really scared,” Tsonga said, adding that the indoor hardcourt was quicker than he expected. “We’re not really used to surfaces like that. I won, that’s the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, Tomas Berdych won his match to bring defending champions Czech Republic level at 1-1 against Switzerland after the opening singles.
The sixth-ranked Berdych eased to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 victory over 289th-ranked Henri Laaksonen on an indoor hardcourt at Palexpo Arena.
Earlier, Swiss team leader Stanislas Wawrinka beat Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
Roger Federer is skipping the best-of-five series, while Czech veteran Radek Stepanek is sidelined by injury.