Serbia marched confidently into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas last eight after Janko Tipsarevic gave the competition’s 2010 winners an unassailable 3-1 lead over Sweden in their World Group first round tie with a 62 76(5) 75 win over Michael Ryderstedt in Sunday’s opening reverse singles.
Having beaten Filip Prpic in straight sets in Friday’s opening rubber, Tipsarevic showed no signs of fatigue after Saturday’s five-set defeat in the doubles and overpowered Ryderstedt with a clinical if not effervescent performance.
The Serbs, who were missing their top player Novak Djokovic, will be up against old rivals Czech Republic for a berth in the last four and face a tough task against the team they beat in the 2010 semis on home soil in the Belgrade Arena en route to their maiden Davis Cup title.
Tipsarevic quickly overcame early jitters after Saturday’s strength-sapping affair and broke Ryderstedt’s serve in the fifth game of the opening set. From there on it was mostly plain sailing for the world No. 9 in front of a passionate 4,000 home crowd in the packed Cair Hall, hosting its first-ever Davis Cup tie.
Tipsarevic broke the Swede again in the seventh game and wrapped up the opening with six aces and 12 winners, giving his rival no chance to get back into the set. Ryderstedt managed only one ace and four winners in the first set and more often than not he had no reply for Tipsarevic’s big serve and punishing ground strokes.
He made a somewhat better start in the second set, holding serve with a pair of aces to lead 3-2 midway through and then 4-3, as his increasingly frequent flashes of brilliance drew warm rounds of applause from Serbian fans in the tennis-infested southern city of Nis.
Tipsarevic let out a cry of frustration as Ryderstedt kept hitting the baseline to retain the upper hand in the second set and lead 5-4, while tension clearly crept into the home crowd favourite as he faced a set point. Tipsarevic responded with a pair of service winners and an ace to stay in the set before the Swede also saved a break point in the next game with a stinging ace down the middle.
The Serb held serve to force a rollercoaster tiebreak in which he fought back from a 4-1 deficit and sent the home fans into raptures with yet another ace, followed by Ryderstedt’s unforced error which sealed the set and dashed any hopes of a comeback the resilient Swede might have had.
Games went smoothly with serve in the opening exchanges of the third set as both players held their own comfortably before Tipsarevic fended off a Ryderstedt onslaught in the fifth game with a pair of service winners.
The hard-hitting slugfest continued as Tipsarevic rifled in his 24th ace to lead 4-3 and then hit a service winner to nose ahead 5-4 after Ryderstedt had fought back to draw level once again in the third set.
Having stayed in the driving seat to lead 6-5, Tipsarevic carved out a double match point on his opponent’s serve in the 12th game of the third set and although Ryderstedt saved both of them with a pair of aces, the home crowd favourite sent elated fans in the Cair Hall into raptures when he wrapped up the contest in two hours 20 minutes.
“I want to thank my team for standing by me through the thick and thin and this is also the best home crowd we have ever played for,” Tipsarevic said in a courtside interview. “Ryderstedt served really well today, much better than his ranking on the ATP Tour suggests, hence I am overjoyed to have won the match in straight sets. I hope some of these fans will be ale to make the trip with us to the Czech Republic because it will be a very open match,” he added.
Serbia’s team captain Bogdan Obradovic was upbeat about his team’s prospects of winning their second Davis Cup title. “It’s never easy to play matches in which you are the odds-on favourite but the players dealt with the pressure really well against Sweden,” he said. “With a bit of luck, we will reach this year’s final and hopefully take on Spain because we are confident that we can beat them on home soil.”
Later, Dusan Lajovic wrapped up a 4-1 victory for Serbia as he beat Filip Prpic 64 64 in the fifth rubber.