It was an evening no one will soon forget as Serbia defeated France for the coveted Davis Cup trophy, edging them out 3-2. Belgrade Arena was filled to capacity over the weekend as fans, fellow athletes, invited guests, and even the President of Serbia attended the finals. There was even a camera crew filming the player’s joy in the lockerroom (video link and translation below).
In the first match, Janko Tipsarevic took on Gael Monfils, but could not produce the shots or push away the nerves he felt coming in. His emotions got the better of him after a rough referee call and it was difficult for him to turn things around in the third set. Even though Tipsarevic played a statistically sounder game in the second set, his 38 unforced errors, to Monfils’ 14, cost him the match. and he lost 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-0.
The second rubber pitted Novak Djokovic against Gilles Simon. Even though Djokovic walked away the winner of this match, don’t let the one-sided scoreline tip you off. Simon gave a fight from the beginning and delayed Djokovic’s eventual win as he evened things out at 5-5 in the third. Djokovic plummeted 62 winners onto Simon’s side of the court, while the Frenchman had more unforced errors than winners, missing easy volleys and key pressure moments that cost him gaining any leeway. The Serb won 6-3, 6-1, 7-5, and evened the score out at 1-1.
The match everybody had a hard time calling was the anticipated doubles contest, with Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki taking on Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement. The match lasted well over 4 hours and kept fans on the edge of their seats until the last moment. The Serbs went up 2 sets to none, but the momentum had changed in the tiebreaker of the second in favor of the French. They took advantage of another bad call against Serbia and gave them a rude awakening as they won the next two sets. The French won only 4 more total points than the Serbs, but that was enough to give them the win, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
France would need to win just one of the two singles matches left to play in order to walk away as Davis Cup champions. But it was not meant to be.
The final two matches were blow-outs in favor of the Serbs. Djokovic thumped Monfils, booming his effective serve just out of Monfils’ reach. When Djokovic’s serve is working, it’s a thing of beauty to witness and his motivation and optimism increases with it. He was simply unstoppable as he took out Monfils, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. As the deciding fifth rubber was required, Captain Vladimir Obradovic subbed in Viktor Troicki for Janko Tipsarevic and Captain Guy Forget replaced Gilles Simon with Michael Llodra. It was their first meeting, so it was anybody’s guess. Surprisingly, Llodra, known for his excellent serve-and-volley game, faltered at the net, winning only 10 of 41 points, while Troicki won 13 of 15 points at the net. Troicki simply exposed Llodra’s age and inability to recover quickly from their doubles match the day before. The Serb won more points on his serves and had a better returning game, allowing him to run away with the win at his second matchpoint (photo below), sealing the score at 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Upon realizing what he had just done, Troicki walked backwards on the court stunned, throwing his racket and anticipating his teammates quick pounce onto the court in his direction. The first to hug him was Captain Obradovic, followed by his teammates, trainers, and friends. His smile quickly turned to tears as his teammates hoisted him in the air, but I think something else was on his mind when the tears began to fall: he remembered that he and his team had vowed to shave their heads if they had won the Davis Cup. Having to shave my head would bring me to tears as well! It seems that Zimonjic also had to carry a smiling, but defiant, Djokovic to the on-court barbershop.
If you’ve ever wanted to party like a Serb, now is your chance. Watch matchpoint as Troicki brings Serbia it’s first Davis Cup title and the awards ceremony that follows their triumph. But the two show-stealers in this video are Troicki and Djokovic with their on-court interviews. First up is Troicki who struggles to find words to express his emotions. He cuts the interview short when he grabs the mic and says” Neznam sta da kazem … moram na sisanje!” which translates to “I don’t know what to say … I have to get my hair cut!” (Video via underPFC)
Djokovic then takes the mic calmly, but when he begins talking about his team’s friendships and bond he finally bursts into emotion yelling, “Najjaci smo! Sta da kazem?! Najbolje smo!” translating to “We’re the strongest! What can I say?! We’re the best!” When the reporter asked where they will celebrate, Djokovic answers that they will “celebrate on the streets of Belgrade, where else?! To the center [of the city], we’re going naked!” Afterward, the camera caught the team in the lockerroom and it’s difficult to explain the hilarity that ensues. Djokovic exclaims “Never again bald, never again” before putting on a shirt that holds the Cyrillic letters for “Champion.” Troicki admires his new do in the mirror while the Serbian team finishes shaving Tipsarevic’s head, meanwhile wondering how Tipsarevic’s new wife Biljana will respond. Zimonjic waves at the camera with his “new face,” and Tipsarevic at the end tells the cameraman to turn around so he can change. Adorned with beanies, the Serbian team also partied in the streets later as promised, fireworks, dancing, and all. Can’t beat that carefree and proud Serbian mentality! (Video via FueBuena)
More photos of the celebrations below!
A tip from “The Slice” (http://www.the-slice.com) also gave me this great find: commemorative Davis Cup stamps featuring all the players, for sale in Serbia.