A spirited Russia battled past 2010 champion Serbia 2-1 in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Friday to reach the last four of the competition for the first time since 2008.
Andrey Rublev put Russia in front by swatting aside Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-2 in the opening match of the day at Spain's La Caja Magica before Novak Djokovic dragged Serbia back into the tie with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov.
With his 15th straight Davis Cup singles victory in the bag, Djokovic teamed up with Viktor Troicki in the deciding doubles match but the pair squandered three match points as Rublev and Khachanov prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(8).
Russia will next face Canada, which claimed its first ever Davis Cup victory over Australia on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the revamped 18-team competition.
Rublev got 2002 and 2006 champion Russia off to a blistering start by dismantling Krajinovic, firing 13 aces and winning 82% of points on his first serve in the process.
The world number 23 raced 5-0 ahead in the first set before wrapping it up in only 21 minutes. An error-prone Krajinovic was unable to recover from there as Rublev sealed the match with an ace to put his team ahead.
Rublev's crushing win heaped pressure on Djokovic, with the world number two needing to beat Khachanov to keep his team in the tie, and the 32-year-old did not disappoint fans with a typically dominant display to steady the ship.
Djokovic, who appeared to struggle with a right arm problem during the tight doubles clash, missed a backhand in the third set tiebreak to hand Russia a match-point and Rublev sealed the victory on his serve.
Emotion Troicki apologises
Serbia's pairing of Troicki and Novak Djokovic failed on three occasions to get over the line, allowing Russian duo Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov to battle back from the brink and seal a dramatic victory.
Djokovic – who had beaten Khachanov earlier to level the tie – attempted to console his distraught compatriot on the court in the immediate aftermath, while members of the Serbia squad were unable to hold back the tears during a poignant post-match press conference.
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For Troicki, the hero in his country's 2010 Davis Cup success against France, the result was tough to take.
"I never experienced such a moment in my career, in my life," Troicki told the media. "I let my team down and I apologise to them.
"We had chances to finish it. We didn't do it. I messed up in the crucial moments.
"God gave me once to be the hero, to win the Davis Cup in the deciding rubber. Now he took it away. I'm really, really disappointed in myself that I couldn't hold my focus until the end and finish."
Serbia had been hoping to send off Janko Tipsarevic on a winning note, the 35-year-old having already announced this year that he would retire after the new-look tournament in Spain.
Team captain Nenad Zimonjic admitted it was not the finish he wanted for a group of players he described as his country's golden generation.
"I see it as an end, because it is Janko's last match, but he's obviously going to be here for us all the way, not just for this tie and in the future, because we are really good friends," Zimonjic said.
"You dream maybe to go all the way, to celebrate with a victory, but sometimes it doesn’t happen what you want to happen.
"But the main thing that everybody knows here [is] how much we care for each other and love each other, and that's what got us here."
(With inputs from Omnisport)