Djokovic survives Davis Cup scare

Novak Djokovic fought off an injury scare and came back from a set and a break down to help secure Serbia a 2-0 lead over Russia, in the Davis Cup World Group tie on Friday.


Novak Djokovic took a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 lead before Daniil Medvedev retired with cramps.   -  Getty Images (File Photo)

Novak Djokovic survived an injury scare and battled back from a set and a break down to help Serbia take a 2-0 lead over Russia in the Davis Cup World Group tie on Friday. Twelve-time major winner Djokovic, just one of two of the world's top 15 playing in the first round this weekend, dropped the first set and was 0-3 down in the second against promising 20-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Nis.

Djokovic, looking to rebuild his confidence after a shock second round exit at the Australian Open, needed first-set treatment on his right shoulder before recovering for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 lead. Medvedev dropped the opening game of the fourth set and then retired with cramps.

Earlier, World No. 37 Viktor Troicki had given 2010 champion Serbia a winning start, downing 52nd-ranked Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) in a 4hr 30min marathon. "The pain I had prevented me from playing the points as I wanted to," said Djokovic. "But it's a good victory and we are in a very good position."

The winner of the tie will face either five-time champions Spain or Croatia in the quarterfinals.

Croatia in the lead

Despite missing former US Open champion Marin Cilic, the Croats took the lead in Osijek when World No. 223 Franko Skugor stunned 26th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6). Roberto Bautista Agut steadied the ship for Spain with the World No. 16 breezing past Ante Pavic - ranked at 486 - 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Spain is without 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal, who skipped the tie after reaching the Australian Open final. Argentina endured a traumatic start to its title defence when it slumped 2-0 down to Italy despite the fervent support of Diego Maradona. Playing without Juan Martin del Potro and Federico Delbonis, the stars of its 2016 final victory over Croatia, the South Americans were outclassed at the Parque Sarmiento in Buenos Aires.

A crowd of 2,000, including football icon Maradona, failed to inspire Guido Pella, who lost to veteran Paolo Lorenzi, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Andreas Seppi, a late call-up for the ill Fabio Fognini, then made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) win over Carlos Berlocq who was celebrating his 34th birthday.

"It was a tough match beyond the result as the first two sets lasted almost two hours," said Lorenzi after securing just his second ever singles win in the Davis Cup. The winner of the tie will face either Germany or Belgium, who are 1-1 in Frankfurt, in the quarterfinals.

World No. 22 Alexander Zverev crushed Arthur de Greef, the World No. 143, to pull Germany level after Steve Darcis downed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-5 (7/5).

Australia in the lead

Nick Kyrgios conceded just seven games in powering Australia to a 2-0 lead over the Czech Republic, which is without Tomas Berdych, in Melbourne. The controversial World No. 15 took just 95 minutes to reel off a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over the 157th-ranked Jan Satral. Rookie Jordan Thompson upset Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Should 28-time champion Australia seal victory in Saturday's doubles, it could face United States, winner on a record 32 occasions, if it defeats Switzerland in Birmingham. The US is favourite after Australian Open champion Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka opted not to play, leaving Henri Laaksonen and 35-year-old Marco Chiudinelli to represent the Swiss.

Jack Sock gave the Americans a flying start with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win over Chiudinelli.

In Ottawa, Dan Evans downed 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 as Britain took a 1-0 lead over Canada. The 26-year-old, his country's top player after World No. 1 Andy Murray opted out, easily dispatched 234th-ranked Israeli-born left-hander Shapovalov, drafted into the Canadian squad after World No. 4 Milos Raonic pulled out injured.

The winner of the tie is likely to next face nine-time champion France which took a 2-0 stranglehold against Japan which is without World No. 5 Kei Nishikori. Richard Gasquet swept past Taro Daniel 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 before Gilles Simon overpowered Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

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