Davis Cup: Marathon man Djokovic levels Kazakhstan clash

Novak Djokovic's win over Mikhail Kukushkin levelled the tie at 2-2 with Serbia's Viktor Troicki, the world number 23, to face Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the decisive rubber later Sunday.

Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his Davis Cup match against Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin.   -  AP

World number one Novak Djokovic battled for almost five hours to defeat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to level the Davis Cup World Group first round tie between Serbia and Kazakhstan on Sunday.

Djokovic hit 19 aces and 37 winners but committed 94 unforced errors in a four hour 57-minute epic win over world number 79 Kukushkin.

That levelled the tie at 2-2 with Serbia's Viktor Troicki, the world number 23, to face Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the decisive rubber later Sunday.

"This was one of the most difficult matches in my carrier both physically and mentally," 28-year-old Djokovic told reporters. "My opponent was near a victory, he was a better player today. After the third set I did not know what would happen, but the audience pulled me up, they gave me the strength."

In the first set the two players were almost on an equal footing but Kukushkin snatched the tie-break. Djokovic fought back with the second set tie-break but Kukushkin dug deep, moving and playing excellently to take the third set 6-4.

However, despite fatigue and shoulder pain, Djokovic appeared more fresh than his rival in the fourth set that he won rather easily 6-3 which hinted at the final outcome. He continued the fifth set in the same rhythm for a 6-2 win to take the rubber.

Djokovic gave his country a 1-0 lead on Friday by easily defeating Nedovyesov, the world number 200. But, in the second singles, Kukushkin fought back to level 1-1 by beating Troicki 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.

In Saturday's doubles, Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev defeated Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5. That was Djokovic's first loss in Davis Cup in five years.

Serbia won the Davis Cup in 2010, led by Djokovic. The winner will go on to face defending champions Great Britain in July's quarter-finals.