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'No regrets' as Djokovic season ends in Davis Cup defeat

By AFP - Dec 04,2021 - Last updated at Dec 04,2021

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates at the end of his men's singles semi-final tennis match between Croatia and Serbia of the Davis Cup tennis tournament at the Madrid arena in Madrid on Frdiay (AFP photo)

MADRID — Novak Djokovic's dream of adding a second Davis Cup to his 20 Grand Slam titles was shattered on Friday when Serbia were defeated by Croatia in the semi finals but the world number one insisted: "I have no regrets".

Djokovic and partner Filip Krajinovic lost 7-5, 6-1 to top-ranked Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, the Olympic and Wimbledon champions, in the decisive doubles rubber.

Croatia, the 2005 and 2018 Davis Cup winners, will face Russia in Sunday's final.

Djokovic had earlier defeated Marin Cilic for the 18th time to keep Serbia alive.

The World No. 1, unbeaten in singles in the tournament since 2011, triumphed 6-4, 6-2. It was his 19th successive Davis Cup singles win.

"My season ended tonight and I have no regrets," said Djokovic who hinted at fatigue at the end of a rollercoaster year.

"I'll take advantage of the next few days to rest, recover and forget about tennis."

However, Djokovic refused to discuss if he will defend his Australian Open title next month with tournament organisers insisting all players be fully vaccinated.

The 34-year-old has refused to say whether or not he has been vaccinated against coronavirus.

Defeat for Serbia meant Djokovic closed his 2021 season having agonisingly missed out on the first calendar Grand Slam by a male player in more than half a century when he lost the final of the US Open.

His hopes of a first Olympic singles gold medal were also dashed in Tokyo.

However, he still ended the year tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Slams, claimed the year-ending World No. 1 ranking for a record seventh time and will on Monday mark a total of 350 weeks in the top ranking.

Djokovic has also extended his record Masters collection to 37 titles.

"He [Djokovic] showed that he was number one in the world in singles," said Mektic.

"But luckily we didn't play that sport — we played the sport with four people. We're so happy."

In the opening rubber, Borna Gojo, ranked a lowly 279, pulled off a surprise win over world number 33 Dusan Lajovic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Gojo has played well above his world ranking in the tournament so far and showed real mettle against Lajovic to come back from a set down, especially after letting slip a 4-2 and 40-0 lead in the first set, losing 17 of the next 18 points.

He also saw off Italy's Lorenzo Sonego (ranked 27) in the quarter-final and Australia's Alexei Popyrin (67) in the group stages.

"In the first set I was up 4-2 40-0, I was in control, I slipped in that game there. I got down on myself a little bit, but then the captain and the teams and the fans picked me back up," said Gojo.

"Obviously Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is bigger on everyone and I managed to play some of my best tennis here at this tournament.

"I'm very happy that I managed to get those big wins, ranking wise, but for me it's more important that I managed to get the point for the team."

Croatia had lost both their previous meetings with their Balkan neighbours.

The first came in Split in 2010 when Serbia won 4-1 in the quarter-finals en route to winning the competition.

They also romped to a 5-0 triumph in 2015.


Medvedev wins 


Daniil Medvedev sealed Russia's place in the Davis Cup final with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff giving his team an unassailable 2-0 lead over Germany on Saturday.

The World No. 2 backed up Andrey Rublev's straight-sets win over Dominik Koepfer in the first rubber to set up a clash with Croatia on Sunday.

The Russians, like the Croats, will be bidding for a third win in the competition.

"Russia is without doubt the strongest team in this Davis Cup," said Croatia's veteran number one Marin Cilic.

"It will be a very tough mission for us facing them.

"But we have our own strengths.

"It is our third final in five years, which is something exceptional, and does not happen very often," added the 33-year-old 2014 US Open champion.

The Croats task is certainly a formidable one.

The Russians strength in depth is unquestionable with the four players all ranked in the top 30 (Rublev is 5th, Aslan Karatzev is 18th and Karen Khachanov 29th).

They have lost just one rubber in the whole tournament, Rublev going down to Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez in their first match.

Croatia is hoping to win one of its singles and leave it down to its unbeaten World No. 1 doubles pairing of Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic.

The Wimbledon and Olympic champions have yet to drop their service in the competition.

"They have the best doubles pair in the world, thus we will have to try and wrap this up in the singles," said Medvedev.

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