Deadlock in Belgrade on opening day

Serbia and Czech Republic are locked at 1-1 after Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych claimed straight-set victories on the opening day of the 2013 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas final at the Belgrade Arena.

World No. 2 Djokovic took two hours and ten minutes to see off the challenge of veteran Radek Stepanek 75 61 64, before Berdych levelled the tie with a 63 64 63 win in one hour and 53 minutes over world No. 117 Dusan Lajovic.

Djokovic emerged onto court to a hero’s welcome for the opening match against Stepanek and was on form right from the off, losing just one point in his first three service games. The Serb broke for 42 when Stepanek put a drop shot wide but got a little tight when serving for the opening set at 53 and surrendered the break when he sliced wide.

A stunning cross-court pick-up after a lengthy rally earned Djokovic two set points on Stepanek’s serve at 65 and he only needed one, firing a backhand past the Czech at the net to claim a tight opening set in 56 minutes.

The second set was not so closely fought as Djokovic won five straight games from 11 to race to a two-set lead. Stepanek, however, put up a better fight in the third set before he was broken at 44 after a stunning low backhand return from Djokovic gave him a break point, on which Stepanek netted.

Djokovic served for the match and raised his arms as Stepanek’s lob went wide on his first match point. It was Djokovic’s 23rd victory in a row, a run which stretches back to his win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the Davis Cup semifinals in Belgrade two months ago.

Djokovic said: “The match started well for both of us. We served well but this surface is slower than the one I played on in Paris and London. I tried to be aggressive, he was mixing up the pace and the first set was very close. After that I managed to feel better on the court.”

Ilja Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic have been named to play for Serbia in Saturday’s crucial doubles rubber, although Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic has admitted it is quite possible that Djokovic will replace Bozoljac. Berdych and Stepanek will almost certainly play for the Czechs instead of the nominated pairing of Jan Hajek and Lukas Rosol.